Merkel upbeat on air base, visa issues after Erdoğan meeting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. REUTERS photoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed hope for positive news on a dispute over visits by German lawmakers to the Turkish Air Base of İncirlik following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in China.
“I believe that we will receive positive news about [a lifting of the ban for German lawmakers to visit İncirlik Air Base] in the next few days,” Merkel said Sept. 4, in Hangzhou.
Ankara has banned German legislators from visiting the base since June after the Bundestag voted to declare the World War I mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
Strained relations between Ankara and Berlin due to the Armenian bill worsened after Turkey rejected a German parliamentary delegation’s visit in late June to İncirlik, which hosts 250 German troops, six surveillance jets and a refueling tanker.
Berlin threatened to remove its military presence at the base to another regional country, but the German troops and jets at İncirlik are contributing to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said separately on Sept. 2 that the German Bundestag’s Armenian vote was “not legally binding.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Sept. 3 that Turkey was satisfied with the latest statements by the German government over the German parliamentary vote declaring the World War I mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 a genocide was “not legally binding.”
“The issue, which is very sensitive historically and humanitarian wise, cannot be left to the justice of the parliaments’ political appreciation and politicians. The German government has with a statement on Sept. 2 said that this [issue] was a legal topic, just as we have been saying substantially,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Merkel also said she saw a chance for the European Union and Turkey to resolve their differences over the visa liberalization for Turkish citizens inside the bloc’s Schengen zone, although she said it could still take several weeks to come to an agreement.
Turkey and the EU agreed on a migrant deal in March, under which Turkey would help curb the flow of migrants in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, EU funding to be used for Syrian refugees in Turkey and accelerated membership talks for Turkey.