Germany’s parliamentary defense committee was told on Friday that its trip to a NATO military base in south-western Turkey will be postponed, at the request of the Turkish government.
Committee chairman Wolfgang Hellmich told local media that Ankara had blocked the committee’s trip to Konya, scheduled for Monday, on the back of worsening bilateral relations between the two countries.
“Under these conditions, I see no way to extend the mandate,” said Hellmich, adding that Turkey’s decision had been conveyed to the German Foreign Ministry a day earlier on Thursday.
“The government, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel, must now take the necessary steps to ensure lawmakers can soon visit the soldiers in Konya,” said Social Democrats defense spokesperson, Rainer Arnold.
The visit to Konya was set up last month to assess Germany’s participation in reconnaissance flights over Syria.
Germany moved troops from Incirlik to Jordan earlier this year
A repeat of Incirlik stand-off?
This latest move from Ankara will only mark a further escalation in tensions between the two NATO allies. Turkey sparked a months-long row after it twice blocked German lawmakers from visiting the 250 Bundeswehr troops that were stationed at the southern Turkish base at Incirlik.
In 2016, Turkey denied German lawmakers access in response to a resolution passed by the Bundestag declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces was a “genocide.”
German parliamentarians were then again barred from visiting Incirlik in May of this year after Berlin refusal to extradite Turkish asylum seekers who find themselves on Ankara’s post-coup “purge” lists.
The prompted the German government to pull its troops and reconnaissance aircrafts out from Incirlik to a new base in Jordan. The withdrawal started earlier this week.
For historical reasons, Germany’s armed forces remain under parliamentary control, with Berlin insisting that lawmakers must have access to its soldiers at all times.
Like the base at Incirlik, Konya has served as a base for German troops supporting international operations against the so-called “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. Bundeswehr troop presence at Konya s much smaller, however, with only between 20 and 30 German troops stationed there.
dm/rt (dpa, Reuters, AP)