Germany, Turkey at odds over İncirlik base visits

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık (R) meets his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen in Ankara. AA photo

ANKARA - Reuters

Germany is pressing Turkey to allow German lawmakers to visit 250 German soldiers stationed at İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on June 1, after meeting her Turkish counterpart.

 

Germany sent troops, six Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft to İncirlik late last year as part of the U.S-led fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. Germany is also working with Turkey in the Aegean Sea to stop illegal migrant flows.

Von der Leyen met Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık on July 1 in Ankara after visiting the base and said they would continue to try to resolve their disagreements on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Warsaw next week.

Turkey's prime minister this week approved von der Leyen's visit, reversing an apparent effort to block the trip that angered German lawmakers and prompted some to suggest an end to German deployments to Turkey.

Von der Leyen, who travelled to the base without media or parliamentarians, said she told Işık how important it was to give German lawmakers responsible for military matters access to their troops in Turkey.

"We agreed to continue discussions about our many common interests, as well as difficult topics," von der Leyen said.

Von der Leyen said she conveyed her condolences to Işık after suicide bombers killed 44 people in Istanbul this week. She pledged to continue to fight extremism. "We stand at Turkey's side," she said.

Strained relations between Turkey and Germany took a turn for the worse in May after the German parliament passed a resolution declaring the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces was “genocide.”

Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but contests assertions that up to 1.5 million were killed and the killings constitute a genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks perished at the time.

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