Turkey-NATO in talks over German lawmakers’ visit to Konya base

Turkey-NATO in talks over German lawmakers’ visit to Konya base

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey-NATO in talks over German lawmakers’ visit to Konya base

This file photo taken on Jan. 21, 2016 shows German Tornado jets on the ground at the air base in İncirlik. AFP photo

Turkey and NATO are in talks regarding a possible visit of German lawmakers to an air base in the Central Anatolian province of Konya within the framework of NATO, a diplomat familiar with the discussion told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 8. 

NATO is conducting discussions with the German side, as well for the modalities of a possible visit to the Konya air base, according to the diplomat.  

Reuters has reported that Turkey has agreed to let German lawmakers visit soldiers serving at an air base in Turkey next month as part of a NATO trip, a letter from the German foreign minister showed on Aug. 8, after Ankara refused a visit there to German MPs in July.    

A letter from Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the head of Germany’s parliamentary defense committee said Turkey had agreed to a NATO proposal for a visit to the air base near Konya on Sept. 8. 

Under the plan, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller would lead the delegation and take up to seven members of the parliamentary committee with her. 

“The Turkish foreign minister has agreed to this proposal,” Gabriel wrote. 

Details are reportedly still being worked out about which lawmakers would be included in the visit. Turkey had objected particularly strenuously to participation by members of Germany’s far-left Left party, which Ankara accuses of “supporting terrorists.”

However, Ankara has not yet confirmed or denied the permission for German lawmakers claimed in Gabriel’s letter.

In July, Turkey delayed a trip by Bundestag’s representatives of German troops serving on AWACS surveillance planes in Konya, following tension between Ankara and Berlin after the latter did not allow Turkish politicians to address Turks living in Germany during a referendum campaign. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed concern over the decision by the Turkish authorities, with the alliance fearing the possible withdrawal of German troops from the Konya base can affect the level of support for the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

He offered to mediate for a visit by German MPs to troops at the Konya base in an attempt to help resolve the dispute between the two member states.

Germany’s armed forces are under parliamentary control and Berlin insists lawmakers must have access to them.

Despite its blocking their access to İncirlik, where German troops are on a national mission, Ankara had not blocked visits by German MPs to the Konya air base until July as the mission is under a NATO mandate.