A group of German lawmakers has been blocked from visiting troops stationed at Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase, officials said on Monday, a move that could reignite a row between the NATO allies over Berlin’s access to the base.
The lawmakers were denied a visit to the base as it was not deemed appropriate at this time, sources in Turkey’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters, without elaborating. Some 250 German troops are stationed at İncirlik as part of the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in neighboring Syria, according to the German armed forces.
A spokesman for the German foreign minister said it was “completely unacceptable” for Turkey to keep German lawmakers from visiting their own soldiers.
“A visit by lawmakers must be made possible,” Martin Schaefer said, adding that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel would raise the issue with colleagues from other NATO governments in Washington on Tuesday.
German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said Berlin would consider alternative places to station the soldiers.
Relations between the NATO allies were strained in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum, when Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing public safety concerns.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics. A narrow majority of Turks backed the referendum to change the constitution and grant Erdogan sweeping executive powers. Germany and other Western allies have voiced concern about what they fear is growing authoritarianism in Turkey.
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.