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Germany to Withdraw Troops from Turkey’s Incirlik Base | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkey’s Incirlik air base near the border with Syria. (AP)

Germany on Wednesday announced that it was withdrawing its troops from Turkey’s Incirlik base as Berlin and Ankara failed to resolve a months-long dispute.

The military personnel, Tornado surveillance jets and other hardware — deployed as part of the international coalition against the ISIS terrorist group — will be moved to Jordan’s Asraq base instead, said Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Germany has had more than 250 troops stationed in Incirlik, flying surveillance missions over Syria and refueling flights for partner nations battling the terrorists

But the deployment has become a bone of contention after Ankara repeatedly refused to allow German lawmakers to visit the base.

Ankara had first denied German parliamentarians the right to travel to the site for several months last year, angered by a Bundestag vote to recognize the Ottoman Empire’s World War I-era massacre of Armenians as a genocide.

A fresh row over lawmakers’ visits to the air base erupted last month.

This time, Ankara was protesting the fact that Berlin has offered political asylum to Turkish nationals accused of complicity in the July 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday traveled to Turkey to hold last-ditch talks with his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, but failed to sway Ankara.

After the talks, Cavusoglu repeated that “we would not like to see members of FETO take shelter in friendly country Germany”, referring to a movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the failed coup.

Berlin has argued that it cannot deploy its soldiers in places which lawmakers are unable to visit, given that all military missions are mandated by parliament.

Von der Leyen said the Azraq air base in Jordan would be a new base for Germany’s troops.

The transfer would disrupt its air refueling missions by two or three weeks, while Tornado surveillance flights would cease for two to three months, she said.

The transfer would not require a new mandate from the German parliament, as the current one specifies the deployment site as the airspace over Syria and its neighboring countries, but does not name the base.

But the government may seek approval from lawmakers for political reasons — not least to bolster its point to Ankara that the deployment was decided by parliamentarians who should therefore be able to visit the troops.

Later on Wednesday, NATO expressed its disappointment with the dispute between Germany and Turkey.

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg revealed that he was in constant contact with Ankara and Berlin in an attempt to end the row.

“It is unfortunate that the dispute was not resolved differently,” he said.