Germany, France eye use of bases in Turkey

Germany, France eye use of bases in Turkey

Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
Germany, France eye use of bases in Turkey

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles taxi the runway after landing at İncirlik Air Base, Turkey, November 12, 2015. REUTERS Photo

Germany and France have applied to the Turkish government to use the country’s air bases in to increase the intensity of their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. 

In the aftermath of the attacks, in which 130 people were killed by ISIL militants, France promised to increase its support for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, while Germany promised its neighbor that it would make a greater contribution to the fight. 

In line with these pledges, France and Germany have applied to use Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base, something that Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and General Staff are warm to.

Berlin sent a letter of intent to the Turkish side regarding the usage of the air base for the Tornado reconnaissance jets it has pledged to send to the coalition. 

The Turkish General Staff and the Foreign Ministry were reportedly leaning toward the usage of the air base by German jets. Ankara is expected to send a positive response to Germany soon after the completion of necessary evaluations.

Turkey agreed in July to open the air base to U.S. drones and fighter jets as part of an agreement for the two countries to work more closely together against ISIL.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said one day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Françoise Hollande met to discuss the ways in which they could increase their fight against ISIL that Germany could send Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate and a tanker aircraft for refueling purposes. 

A couple of days later, German Army Chief of Staff Volker Wieker told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag that Germany was holding talks with Turkey and Jordan over the deployment of the four to six Tornado jets, adding that a total of around 1,200 German personnel would be deployed. 

France asks for usage of all air bases

In a similar move, France also sent a letter of intent to Ankara for the usage of air bases in Turkey, including İncirlik, as well as Turkish airspace in the event of emergency.

France also demanded that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle receive logistical support from the Taşucu Port in the southern province of Mersin, which neighbors Adana.

Turkey reportedly does not see any obstacles to France’s demands, sources have said, adding that the deal sealed with the U.S. on the usage of İncirlik could be extended to other partners as well.

Sources have also said Spain could extend the duty of the Patriot missiles it has stationed in Adana for another year, while Italy could station SAMP-T missiles by early 2016 to the southeastern provinces of Kahramanmaraş and Gaziantep. 

Germany pulled its Patriot missiles from Turkey earlier in 2015, two years after it deployed them.

Meanwhile, the German cabinet approved a mandate for military assistance to back the international fight against ISIL in Syria on Dec. 1.

The package, which still requires parliamentary approval, covers Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 troops in response to a French appeal.

The engagement steps up German involvement in the campaign against ISIL for the first time to a more direct role.  

Merkel noted that the German engagement began in September 2014 with the start of a program to train and arm Peshmerga forces from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq fighting ISIL.

“We are expanding this participation in the existing alliance with a fight against the same [ISIL] but now in Syria,” Merkel, who pledged Paris “any and all assistance” after the Nov. 13 jihadist attacks, told reporters.

The mandate is for one year at a cost of 134 million euros ($142 million) and can be extended until 2016.

Parliament will also be asked to approve provisions for emergency medical assistance for France in the case of “catastrophic events,” and a still-to-be-determined amount of additional humanitarian aid for refugees and displaced people in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries.