Germany says it has no choice but to pull its troops and jets out of Incirlik, an airfield in southern Turkey that coalition forces are using in the fight against the Islamic State.
The decision by Germany pointed to a daunting reality that Turkey is not interested in restoring the relationship with Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing an uphill battle to get re-elected.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who was in Ankara on Monday, said Berlin will have to pull its forces out of the Incirlik airfield, blaming Turkey for restrictions on German lawmakers seeking to visit over 250 troops there.
“My Turkish colleague explained to me that in the current situation, Turkey is not able to allow every visit by German parliamentarians to Incirlik – for domestic reasons,” Mr. Gabriel told a news conference, according to Reuters.
Germany’s move-out from Turkey is the first clear sign that Ankara is determined to reduce ties with its strongest ally in Europe. The foreign minister’s visit to Turkey was clearly geared toward adding a last-minute effort to salvage whatever little left of the alliance following months of political bickering.
The German foreign minister said he regretted his country’s reluctant decision, but had to pull out its forces out of Incirlik.
Numan Kurtulmus, Turkish government minister and spokesman, told reporters that the decision by Germany is a unilateral one and that it is not something Turkey is involved in.
“It is up to them. It is said that they are withdrawing on Wednesday. German Bundestag will discuss this. Bottomline, it is a unilateral decision taken only by themselves,” Mr. Kurtulmus said, adding that it is out of the question for “anti-Turkey German lawmakers” to visit Incirlik or even a NATO base in Konya, a central Anatolian town south of capital Ankara.
On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim canceled his meeting with Mr. Gabriel, a clear diplomatic snub after Germany’s exit decision.
Mr. Kurtulmus said the Turkish side clearly expressed Ankara’s sensitivities to Germany, such as their support for terrorist organizations.
Turkey’s relationship with Germany was severely strained after it refused to allow Turkish politicians to hold campaign rallies earlier this year. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly threw Nazi slurs against Mrs. Merkel and accused the country of Nazi practices. Berlin’s decision to grant asylum to some of 414 army officers and government workers only added fuel to Turkey’s escalating animosity toward the country.
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