Turkey blocks German lawmaker visit to soldiers at air base

Turkey blocks German lawmaker visit to soldiers at air base

Turkey's foreign minister said Thursday that Germany was welcome to withdraw its troops from Incirlik air base if it desired. Gabriel said he used his face-to-face meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to ask Washington to help resolve Berlin's diplomatic rift with Turkey over the air base.

Turkey's prime minister said Tuesday that Germany must decide between its friendship with Ankara and alleged coup plotters, after Berlin granted political asylum to military officials with suspected links to last year's failed putsch. German troops will inspect the Jordanian airbase Muffawak Salti on Wednesday to ascertain how quickly the move can occur.

Earlier this week, Turkey blocked a scheduled visit by German lawmakers to some 270 troops serving in the campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) at Incirlik airbase. "I can only hope that the Turkish government will change its mind in the coming days". Gulen is blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the failed coup in July a year ago.

Since Germany's military missions always require parliamentary mandates, "it is absolutely essential that our lawmakers are able to visit our soldiers", Merkel said. Mevlut Cavusoglu told private NTV that Turkey opened up the airbase to Germany as part of the global coalition's operations against the Islamic State group.

The Incirlik refusal, which follows a similar standoff previous year, is the latest in a long line of irritants in Turkish-German relations.

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Germany said on Wednesday it was considering moving the roughly 250 troops deployed at Incirlik to Jordan because Ankara refuses to grant German lawmakers access to the site.

Germany has about 260 soldiers stationed at Incirlik as part of the US-led coalition.

The deepening row has further soured relations that became increasingly strained ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey that handed President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

After the vote, a furious Erdogan accused German lawmakers of Turkish origin of having "tainted blood".

Ministry sources told Reuters that the German parliamentary defense committee's visit was barred because it was not considered appropriate. But Germany accepted the asylum by the Turkish officers for fear that they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

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