German MPs: Troops should quit Turkish airbase if politicians denied access

German politicians say if Turkey continues to refuse members from Germany’s parliament the right to visit the Incirlik Airbase, troops serving at the military facility who are helping in the fight against Islamic State will be brought home.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin soured after the German parliament voted to pass a resolution in June that stated the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks was an act of genocide. This prompted to Turkey to ban German lawmakers from attending the base.  

"As lawmakers who send soldiers to places, we must know where they are, how they are and be able to talk to the soldiers. If that is not possible in Turkey then the soldiers must come back to Germany," said Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin, according to Reuters.

His comments were reiterated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that politicians from the country must be allowed to visit the 250 soldiers at the base. The troops are involved in missions aimed at fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Iraq. 

"A way must be found for the lawmakers to visit the soldiers,” she told broadcaster ZDF. “We must continue to work on this. The solution is not yet there.” 

The German Chancellor is unlikely to resolve this problem through diplomacy and negotiations, former German intelligence officer Reiner Rupp told RT. "At least, she wasn't successful during the NATO Warsaw summit [when] she approached Erdogan to talk with him on the matter, but Erdogan didn't move, didn't budge,” he said, adding that "some people close to Erdogan said the airbase in Incirlik is not a place for political shows and political tours, and so it appears that the Turks remain steadfast on the matter."

Meanwhile, Andreas Scheuer, general secretary of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) said politicians had to be allowed to visit the soldiers stationed at the base. 

"As a result of his behavior, Turkish President Erdogan is risking the withdrawal of the German army," Scheuer told the Tagesspiegel newspaper, as cited by Reuters. 

Germany also has six Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane stationed at the base, which is located in southern Turkey east of Adana, close to the Mediterranean coast. 

In late June, Turkish authorities canceled a planned visit by Germany’s State Secretary for Defense Ralf Brauksiepe and other lawmakers, who wanted to see the Incirlik Airbase in July. 

“The Turkish authorities at the moment are not approving the travel plans,” said a German Defense Ministry spokesman. “There is no written statement on the reason.” 

However, Ankara said it would not have any problems with military and technical delegations visiting the base. 

The decision to ban politicians came just days after German announced it intended to spend €65 million (US$71.8 million) on upgrading its section of the facility. The Bundeswehr said it wanted to build accommodation for the permanent deployment of around 400 German soldiers, a fully equipped command and control post and facilities for a full wing of Tornado fighter-jets and an Airbus tanker, a report by Der Spiegel stated. 

"Of course, that is being put into question now, in fact the call to bring the Tornados back to Germany is rising and may actually lead to withdrawal," Rupp told RT.

Before the decision by the German parliament to recognize the slaughter of around 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, tensions between the two countries were already rocky.

In April, Turkey was incensed after a German comedian read an insulting poem about Erdogan on television, with Ankara calling for the comic to face prosecution. Meanwhile Germany has been critical of a Turkish crackdown on journalists, academics and media outlets. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on July 4 that Ankara is willing to cooperate with any country in the fight against IS. However, he was forced to backtrack on an alleged statement picked up in the Turkish media, that he had supposedly invited Russia to use the Incirlik Airbase. 

“I did not make such a comment. We said that we could cooperate with everyone in the fight against ISIS," Reuters quoted Cavusoglu as saying in comments broadcast live on television. 

“We said that we could cooperate with Russia in the period ahead in the fight against Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for Islamic State]. I did not make any comment referring to Russian planes coming to the Incirlik Airbase,” Cavusoglu said, as cited by Reuters.