Germany Withdraws All Troops From Turkey As Diplomatic Relations Deteriorate

Merkel withdraws German troops from Turkey as diplomatic relations sour

Amid a major breakdown in diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany, Angela Merkel has decided to withdraw all German troops stationed at a Turkish air base. 

The decision comes after Turkey refused to allow German politicians to visit soldiers at Incirlik air base.

Merkel told reporters on Monday, “this is unfortunate, and we have made this clear through various channels. We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate.”

Express.co.uk reports: More than 250 German soldiers are stationed at the base, contributing to NATO’s mission targeting Islamist State militants in neighbouring Syria.

The military personnel fly Tornado surveillance missions over the wartorn country, and refuel flights for partner nations battling ISIS extremists.

Turkish foreign ministry sources told Reuters that a visit by German parliamentarians “would not be appropriate at this time”.

Turkey similarly refused access to German authorities late last year, although that visit eventually went ahead.

Speaking to reporters, Angela Merkel said: “We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate.

“That means looking at alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan.”

For historic reasons and as part of efforts to prevent abuse of power, the Bundeswehr army is controlled by the German parliament – not the government – meaning lawmakers have the right to inspect its activities, with the country and abroad.

A spokesman for the German foreign minister said it was “completely unacceptable” for Turkey to keep members of the parliamentary defence committee from visiting their own soldiers.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is expected to raise the issue with colleagues from other NATO governments in Washington on Tuesday.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin deteriorated sharply in the run-up to an April 16 referendum in Turkey – which saw President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers dramatically increase.

Citing public safety concerns, Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, prompting Erdogan to accuse Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics.

Only a narrow majority of Turks had backed changing the constitution which grant Mr Erdogan sweeping executive powers.

Germany and other Western allies have voiced concern about what they fear is a drift towards authoritarian rule in Turkey.

More recently, Berlin angered Ankara by granting asylum to some Turkish holders of diplomatic passports.

According to reports in German media, more than 400 Turkish military personnel, diplomats, judges and other officials – along with their relatives – had sought political asylum in Germany.

They fear being caught up in Turkey’s crackdown against those Mr Erdogan blames for last year’s failed coup attempt – namely supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive US-based Islamic preacher who has denied the charges against him.

Turkish authorities have detained tens of thousands of officials on suspicion of involvement.

The vast crackdown heightened tensions between Turkey and Germany, which is home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” program in the 1960s and 1970s.

Last year Turkey banned German lawmakers from visiting the base for months in response to a resolution in the German parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide – a term Ankara rejects.

In response, a furious Mr Erdogan accused German lawmakers of Turkish origin of having “tainted blood”.

Armenians claim more than 1.5 million people were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart.

However, Turkey rejects these numbers – arguing that the figure lies between 300,000 to 500,000 Armenian death, adding that just as many Turks lost their life too.