Erdoğan and Merkel meet amid İncirlik crisis

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French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) speak as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (front L) arrives for family picture during the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit at the NATO headquarters, in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Eric FEFERBERG

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met in Brussels on Thursday on the sidelines of the NATO summit, amid tension between Ankara and Berlin over Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase, Cumhuriyet reported.

The meeting, which was closed to the press, lasted for 30 minutes.

Speaking to the media ahead of the meeting, Merkel threatened to withdraw German soldiers from the Turkish airbase in İncirlik, Deutsche Welle reported.

“I will make it very clear to the Turkish president during our talks that it is indispensable for our soldiers to be able to be visited by members of the German Bundestag, as ours is a parliamentary military,” Merkel said.

“Otherwise we will have to abandon Incirlik.”

In response to statements from Berlin that troops might be moved to another country, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week that Germany was welcome to withdraw its troops from İncirlik if it so desired.

“If they want to leave, let’s just say goodbye. That’s up to them, and we won’t beg them,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish broadcaster NTV.

Tension between Germany and Turkey escalated over the arrest of two Turkish-German journalists on terrorism charges and Berlin’s decision to grant asylum to military officers and other diplomatic passport holders who Ankara accuses of involvement in a failed coup attempt on July 15.

The tension turned into a crisis when the Turkish government blocked a group of German lawmakers from visiting troops stationed at Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase on May 15.

Germany has more than 250 troops stationed at İncirlik along with Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling aircraft that are flown as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The delegation of German lawmakers called off the trip to Turkey after they were told that they would not be able to meet with Turkish officials or visit Parliament, Green Party deputy parliamentary speaker Claudia Roth said on Wednesday.

The three-day visit scheduled to begin on Thursday was to include stops in Istanbul, Ankara and the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

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