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German minister to visit Turkey amid İncirlik row

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will visit Turkey on June 5 amid tension between Ankara and Berlin over a ban on German lawmakers visiting German troops at Turkey İncirlik Airbase.

According to a statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkish-German bilateral relations and current regional and international issues will be on the agenda of Gabriel’s meetings.

The visit comes days after news that 18 EU countries and Canada will fight for Belgium to host the 2018 NATO summit instead of Turkey.

German newspaper Die Welt reported on Wednesday that a group of European countries in NATO led by Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark “vehemently” oppose the annual summit being held in Turkey after a downturn in relations between the EU and İstanbul.

Before making a final decision about the future of German troops at İncirlik Airbase, Germany will wait two more weeks for Ankara to review its move to block a group of German lawmakers from visiting the airbase, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

According to the report, top German officials from the foreign and defense ministries briefed parliamentarians on Friday. The final decision will be taken in accordance with two weeks of talks between Berlin and Ankara.

Noting that foreign and defense ministry officials believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not change his stance on the issue, Der Spiegel underlined that no breakthrough was recorded during a meeting in Brussels last week between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Erdoğan.

“Sometimes there may be those who openly support terrorists among German lawmakers. … We expressed that some who openly support terrorists and almost act together with them will not be welcomed. Right now, our foreign ministers will discuss the issue with each other, and we will take steps accordingly,” Erdoğan said while returning to Turkey from Brussels.

Speaking to the media ahead of the Brussels 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, speaking to the media ahead of the meeting with Erdoğan.

“Otherwise we will have to abandon Incirlik.”

“If they want to leave, let’s just say goodbye. That’s up to them, and we won’t beg them,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week in response to statements from Berlin that troops might be moved to another country.

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 they would not be able to meet with Turkish officials or visit Parliament, Green Party deputy parliamentary speaker Claudia Roth said on last month.


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