German defence minister visits Turkish air base after diplomatic spat

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited southern Turkey's Incirlik air base on Friday after the country's prime minister reversed a ban on her visit amid a diplomatic row.

Von der Leyen visited the 240 German troops stationed at Incirlik - a strategically important military base for the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria - and later traveled to Ankara for political talks.

German lawmakers expressed outrage last week in response to apparent efforts by Turkish officials to block political delegations from visiting Incirlik, which the German army is also using as a base for its Tornado reconnaissance jets.

Following talks with Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik in Ankara, von der Leyen said further discussions would be necessary to resolve the dispute over air base visiting privileges.

"I will report on the visit to the federal government and in parliament," von der Leyen said. "Together we will see what additional steps can be taken to reach a good solution with Turkey."

"I stated that it is important that the relevant delegates have access to the troops in Turkey," the minister continued. "My counterpart acknowledged our military collaboration against terrorism as well as within NATO. We agreed to continue our dialogue about shared interests and other difficult topics."

Relations between Germany and Turkey took a sharp turn for the worse last month when Bundestag lawmakers voted unanimously to classify as genocide the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey is the successor state.

Turkey vehemently disputes this description, arguing that the number of deaths has been inflated and there were casualties on all sides during World War I.

Turkey sees the German army as an extension of the Bundestag parliament. In Germany, every military deployment has to be approved by lawmakers in the lower house.

Last update: Fri, 01/07/2016 - 21:47
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