Turkey blocks German lawmaker visit to soldiers at air base

Germany has more than 200 troops stationed at the Incirlik airbase in Turkey flying Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuelling flights for partner nations battling IS jihadists

Members of the German parliament's defence committee were blocked from visiting the base by Turkey, Germany's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

Tensions between the two governments were intensified yesterday facing the Ankara refusal to allow a group of German legislators to visit troops deployed at Incirlik airbase in southeastern Turkey, for joint use with other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said if there is a demand they can discuss the Turkish side's decision on banning the German lawmakers to visit Incirclik air base during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, the Turkish Diken news agency reports. But a response to asylum granted by German government to Turkish soldiers is a suspected reason.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey's position was "unfortunate" and that Berlin would look for alternatives to Incirlik, including in Jordan. Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned - including the German-Turkish writer Deniz Yucel - and authorities have carried out mass sackings and arrests of public officials.

This time the ban is said to be motivated by Germany's decision to grant political asylum to Turkish military officers facing persecution in Turkey after the failed July 2016 military coup there.

"The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army, and so it is absolutely necessary that there be possibilities for our lawmakers to visit their soldiers", Merkel said.

"The dispute is a bilateral issue between Turkey and Germany", he added.

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Germany has about 250 troops stationed at the airbase in southern Turkey.

A spokesman for the German foreign minister said on Monday it was "completely unacceptable" for Turkey to keep German politicians from visiting their own soldiers.

Last year's German parliamentary vote to label as genocide the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks also soured the mood.

Relations between Turkey and Germany have been in a downward spiral in recent months, with many German lawmakers outraged at what they see as flagrant repression of freedoms during Ankara's post-coup crackdown.

A defense ministry spokesman said Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete were also possible sites but that Jordan was the most favorable.

The deepening row has further soured relations that became increasingly strained ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey that handed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

After the vote, a furious Erdogan accused German lawmakers of Turkish origin of having "tainted blood".

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