Turkey says visit by German politicians to İncirlik base ‘not appropriate’

Turkey says visit by German politicians to İncirlik base ‘not appropriate’

Turkey says visit by German politicians to İncirlik base ‘not appropriate’

DHA photo

Turkey’s foreign minister has said that a visit by German politicians to İncirlik Air Base, one of the centers from where the U.S-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) campaign is managed in southern Turkey, was “not appropriate.” 

“It is not appropriate for non-military delegations and politicians to visit the İncirlik Air Base,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on June 23, during a joint press conference with his Maltese counterpart in Ankara. 

German news website Spiegel Online reported that a German defense ministry official had told a closed parliamentary panel that Turkey had blocked a visit by Ralf Brauksiepe, a deputy to German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, to the İncirlik Air Base located in southern Turkey.

A spokesman for the German defense ministry also confirmed the claim, according to Reuters. 

“Turkish officials do not currently approve of the travel plans,” a ministry spokesman said, confirming a report published by Spiegel. 

“There is no written statement on the reason,” he added, according to AFP. 

Brauksiepe had planned to visit the İncirlik base along with some German lawmakers next month, the spokesman said, adding that Berlin still hoped the trip could go ahead.

Germany has about 250 soldiers stationed at the air base in southern Turkey, along with six Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane, all of which are participating in a U.S.-led air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. 

Though a German defense ministry spokesman said last week that the two countries were finalizing an agreement on the construction of new housing and aircraft facilities for German forces at the İncirlik Air Base, thus holding the deal up as evidence of the continued strength of German-Turkish military relations, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli denied on June 13 the reports of a deal between Ankara and Germany over the same claims, describing news reports on the issue as “speculation.” 

Ties between Germany and Turkey have been strained over a number of issues, including a resolution adopted by the German parliament which declared the World War I-era killings of Anatolian Armenians at the hands of Ottomans as “genocide.” Ankara strongly denies that the killings a century ago amount to genocide. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been keen to stress common interests with Turkey, as she presses to complete an EU-Turkey deal that would stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visa-free travel rights for Turkish citizens and accelerated talks on Ankara’s EU membership. 

But she faces pressure at home to take a tougher stance against Turkey over its treatment of human rights activists and recent statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggesting that German lawmakers of Turkish origin had “tainted blood.”