Ankara has withdrawn permission extended to German lawmakers to check on the troops, stationed at a NATO military base in Konya in Turkey’s southwest. The last-minute move sparked outrage in Berlin with MPs suggesting to pull out the contingent altogether.
The Turkish authorities notified the German Foreign Ministry of its decision not to allow inspection by MPs late Thursday, just days ahead of the scheduled visit on Monday next week, the Chairman of the German Parliament’s defense committee, SPD deputy Wolfgang Hellmich, told Deutschlandfunk.
As the reason for the visit’s abrupt cancellation, Turkish officials cited the dismal state of the German-Turkish relations, requesting that the trip be postponed indefinitely.
Denouncing the Turkish authorities’ conduct, Hellmich said he sees no difference between this case and Ankara’s earlier decision to block access to a Turkish Air Force military base in Incirlik that ultimately led to the relocation of the German troops stationed there to Jordan.
“I see this as the same pattern,” the lawmaker said, stressing that the right for German MPs to visit the troops in Turkey should be unconditional and not depend on Turkey’s assessment of bilateral relations between the countries.
“Our position is crystal clear: We need a basic, [and] unrestricted right to visit,” he said, adding that since the facility in Konya is a NATO military base, Turkey’s unwelcoming stand is becoming “indeed a problem for NATO.”
Other lawmakers voice similar concerns, urging the chancellor to step in the dispute.
“The government, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel, must now take the necessary steps to ensure lawmakers can soon visit the soldiers in Konya,” Rainer Arnold, defense spokesman for the Social Democrats’ parliamentary faction, said, as cited by Deutsche Welle.
If Ankara does not reverse its course, the German Parliament will have to consider withdrawing troops from Konya as well.
“Under the given conditions I see no possibility, if this [situation] does not change fundamentally, that we can extend the mandate [for troops to be stationed in Konya] in November,” Hellmich said, calling on the German government to appeal to NATO to resolve the stalemate “at the highest level.”
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) needs approval of the Social Democrats to extend the mission mandate.
Commenting on Turkey’s request to “delay the journey of a parliamentary delegation,” the German Foreign Ministry said on Friday, it has been engaged in “intensive talks” with NATO and other parties “to set a new date as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, while there is no clarity on the issue, Hellmich suggested the German authorities should start looking for alternative locations as soon as possible.
“If Turkey’s attitude, the attitude of the Turkish government does not change…and this now concerns all NATO facilities, but especially in Konya, then I don’t see how we can stay there,” he said.
Germany is amidst a process of transferring its 250 military personal and six Tornado surveillance jets from the Incirlik air base to Jordan after it was repeatedly denied access to the base by Ankara. The last such refusal took place in May, after Berlin refused to extradite suspects in the foiled coup attempt to Turkey, who had sought asylum in Germany in the aftermath of the coup. Some 400 Turkish citizens filed for asylum in Germany following the events of July 15 last year.