German minister informs Turkey of pullout from İncirlik

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This file photo taken on January 21, 2016 shows German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen talking with German soldiers during a visit of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey. Turkey again has called off a visit of German parliamentarians at the Incirlik air base, where Bundeswehr soldiers of the German air force are stationed, it was confirmed on May 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / TOBIAS SCHWARZ

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called her Turkish counterpart, Fikri Işık, to inform him of Berlin’s decision to pull the Bundeswehr out of İncirlik Airbase, saying details of the planning would be forthcoming, DHA reported.

According to the report, Von der Leyen expressed thanks to Turkey for hosting German troops at İncirlik and said she would inform Ankara about details of the pullout.

Earlier on Wednesday, Germany’s government recommended pulling the Bundeswehr from İncirlik Airbase after Turkey refused to allow a group of German lawmakers to visit troops at the base.

The Bundeswehr has about 280 military personnel stationed at İncirlik, from where they fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuel flights for partner nations in the coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ahead of the meeting, Bundestag deputies sought to remind the cabinet that parliament has the last word on military deployments.

“In all circumstances, the Bundestag, which has the relevant authority, must consider the new situation,” Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary ombudsman for the armed forces, told the RND newspaper group for reports published on Wednesday.

A majority of deputies, including Greens and legislators from the ruling Christian Democrats and their junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, support moving the troops from Turkey to a nearby location. The left would like to see the Bundeswehr pull out entirely from its mission against ISIL.

The German government decision followed talks on Monday between German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his counterpart in Ankara, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said Turkey would block a Bundestag delegation from visiting troops stationed at İncirlik.

“İncirlik is a good air base for the fight against ISIL, but we cannot accept not being able to visit our soldiers,” Defense Minister von der Leyen said on Monday, adding that an alternative had been identified in Jordan’s Azraq airbase.

She added that King Abdullah supports the move, which could pause refueling missions by two to three weeks and surveillance flights by two to three months.

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.

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