Turkey lifts ban on German lawmakers visiting troops at Incirlik base

The Turkish government has lifted a ban on German lawmakers visiting Bundeswehr troops stationed at the strategic Incirlik airbase in the country's south-east, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday.

The ban on Bundestag lawmakers visiting the base, from which Germany is supporting a US-led military coalition against the extremist Islamic State group, was imposed amid a protracted diplomatic row between the two countries.

Strained relations between Germany and Turkey worsened in early June, when the parliament in Berlin passed a resolution that declared the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I to be a genocide.

Turkey, the Ottoman Empire's successor state, accepts that many Armenians were killed during the conflict, but vehemently rejects that the killings constitute genocide.

Last week, the German government insisted that the resolution was "not legally binding," but denied reports that it would formally distance itself from the parliamentary decision.

The move came after a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Group of 20 summit in China, and was interpreted by many as the latest in a series of concessions to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Cavusoglu said by emphasizing the fact that the resolution is not binding, Germany had fulfilled Ankara's expectation.

"They have understood that they cannot treat Turkey as they please," Cavusoglu said. "We will take a positive step towards anyone who takes a positive step towards Turkey."

Berlin has struggled to strike a balance between condemning Erdogan's sweeping purge of suspected supporters of a July 15 coup attempt and maintaining good relations with Turkey, a critical partner in managing the refugee crisis and the fight against terrorism.

Turkey's pledge to take back migrants who cross illegally from Turkish shores into Greece has contributed to a significant reduction in refugee arrivals.

A delegation from the parliamentary committee for military affairs plans to travel to Incirlik on October 4-6 for a visit scheduled before the ban was imposed, a source in Berlin told dpa.

The Bundeswehr is what is referred to as a "parliamentary army," meaning that every deployment has to be approved by a simple majority vote in the Bundestag. It currently has reconnaissance aircraft and 250 soldiers stationed at Incirlik.

"A parliamentary army has to be able to receive visits from its lawmakers," Steinmeier said. "This decision by the Turkish government takes us one step further."

Last update: Thu, 08/09/2016 - 18:14

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