Chancellor threatens to pull German troops out of Turkey
Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering withdrawing German troops stationed in Turkey after a diplomatic row with Ankara, potentially disrupting the international mission against Isis. Financial Times reports in its article Merkel threatens to pull German troops out of Turkey that Ms Merkel was responding to Turkey’s decision to block a visit by German parliamentarians to the Incirlik air base, where about 250 German troops are operating reconnaissance and refuelling flights linked to the anti-IS campaign.
The chancellor said on Monday that it was essential for lawmakers to visit the soldiers as parliament controls German military deployments. “We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mission,” Ms Merkel said. “That means looking at alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan.”
Ankara’s move followed the German authorities’ decisions to grant asylum to 414 Turkish military officers and diplomats, and their families. They had sought sanctuary in Germany after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown following last summer’s failed military coup. Berlin is also protesting against the detention on terrorism-related charges of two German citizens: journalist Deniz Yucel, who has been held since February, and translator Mesale Tolu, who was arrested last month. Germany has repeatedly expressed concern about the scale of Mr Erdogan’s purge and about anti-German rhetoric in the recent referendum in which Mr Erdogan successfully sought support for bolstering his presidential powers. Earlier this year, German authorities prevented a number of Turkish politicians from campaigning for Mr Erdogan in the country. Ms Merkel has further warned that she sees as a “red line” any attempt by Ankara to hold a referendum on reintroducing the death penalty, as Mr Erdogan is reportedly considering. Such a move would almost certainly mark the end of negotiations for Turkey’s EU accession — talks which have been frozen since last summer’s crackdown.
The German-backed EU-Turkey refugee agreement, which aimed to stop migrants leaving Turkey for the EU, has remained in place despite threats from Mr Erdogan to pull out. Ankara is angry that a crucial aspect of the agreement — visa-free travel for Turks — has not been implemented. But Brussels says that even before the coup Turkey did not meet the conditions, including reforms of its anti-terror laws. In Brussels’ view, the position has deteriorated further since last summer with tens of thousands detained.
Ms Merkel and Mr Erdogan are due to meet in Brussels next week during a Nato summit.
The German lawmakers’ visits to Incirlik have been blocked once before: last summer, they were banned for months after the Bundestag approved a motion condemning the 1915 massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.