Ankara – Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim canceled on Monday a scheduled meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, following statements by the latter that Germany would withdraw its troops from the Turkish Incirlik air force base.
Reuters quoted sources in Yildirim’s office as saying that the meeting was canceled due to Yildirim’s busy work schedule.
Gabriel was expected to meet with the Turkish premier in Ankara on Monday in a visit aimed at trying to diffuse the one-year-old tension between the two countries.
In a statement delivered in St Petersburg ahead of his visit, Gabriel said that Germany was seeking to normalize relations with Ankara.
“We are looking for possibilities to take the first steps towards a normalization,” Gabriel told reporters in St Petersburg.
Earlier on Monday, the German minister met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss Turkey’s ban on German lawmakers to visit troops stationed at a Turkish air base.
The airbase in southern Turkey has been at the core of disagreements between Ankara and Berlin, when Turkish authorities blocked a German parliamentarian visit earlier this month. The base is used by the international coalition fighting ISIS.
In a joint news conference following the meeting, Gabriel said: “Turkey has made clear that, for domestic political reasons, it cannot approve visits of all lawmakers.”
“Turkey must understand that in this situation, we must transfer German soldiers out of Incirlik,” he said, as reported by Reuters.
Addressing his German counterpart, Cavusoglu said: “Right now it is possible to visit the NATO base in Konya (in central Turkey), not Incirlik.”
Turkey justified preventing the German parliamentary group from visiting the base by accusing Berlin of having offered political asylum to Turkish nationals who took part in the failed coup of July 2016.
Few days before Gabriel’s visit, Yildirim said that Turkey wanted to repair relations but “Germany should move accordingly”.