German jets to start leaving Incirlik base in Turkey for Jordan in July – defense minister
“Until the end of June, our flight plans as part of the anti-Islamic State coalition are set,” the minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told German media on Sunday. “After that, we'll be transferring our tanker aircraft as quickly as possible to Jordan.”
The tanker aircraft will be operational again after the transfer approximately in the second half of July, according to the minster. The relocation, however, is expected to disrupt the operations of Tornado combat planes for at least two months.
“For the Tornados it would mean at least two to three months downtime, and for the refueling aircraft about two to three weeks. So, I will try to hold talks with the anti-terror coalition immediately, especially with the Americans, in which we can discuss how to close the gaps, so that it’s not disadvantageous,” von der Leyen said.
All the planes are expected to become fully operational before October, the minister said.
Germany has some six Tornado fighter jets, a tanker plane used for refueling and about 280 troops stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik airbase. The contingent was deployed to the base in response to the Paris terrorist attacks in December 2015.
Germany started to look for a possible replacement for Turkey’s Incirlik airbase as relations between the two countries took a new hit mid-May, when Ankara blocked a scheduled meeting of German MPs with troops stationed at the base.
The decision came after Berlin granted asylum to a number of Turkish nationals, who were accused by Ankara of participating in the July 2016 botched coup attempt in the country. Those people reportedly hold diplomatic passports and were stationed in NATO facilities in Germany at the time of the attempted coup.
Turkey made a similar move last year, prohibiting a delegation of lawmakers from visiting the base, following the German parliament's decision to brand the Ottoman Empire's massacre of Armenians in the early 20th century as genocide. Ankara firmly denies that any genocide took place.
While the two countries have been trying to settle the Incirlik issue, Berlin considered possible alternatives for the base, eventually settling on a military airfield in Jordan. The decision to abandon the Turkish base was greenlighted last week by the German cabinet last week.
Turkey has shown little remorse over the decision, stressing that it was solely up to the Germans to withdraw its forces.
Turkish PM Binali Yıldırım said that Germany can “remove its troops however it wants.”
“There is no decision we have taken on this. They can have it their own way,” he told reporters.