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German foreign minister seeks US support in Turkish airbase row

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has aired grievances concerning a dispute with Turkey during a state visit to the US. He has sought to win the support of Germany's Washington allies at next week's NATO summit.

German Foreign Minister Sigamr Gabriel said on Wednesday that he used his face-to-face meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to ask the US to help resolve Germany's diplomatic feud with Turkey over Incirlik airbase.

Gabriel said he expected the US to confront Ankara as to why a German delegation was this week prevented from visiting Turkey's Incirlik facility, where some 260 Bundeswehr troops are stationed.

Read more: Turkey's Incirlik air base: What you need to know

"I believe that the Americans will also use the opportunities they have to talk to the Turkish side to say that we must have a different relationship with each other than the current one," Gabriel said.

Turkey's decision to snub a visiting German delegation - the second move of its kind within a year - has prompted the German government to once again mull whether to move troops out from the base, with Jordan a likely alternative site for stationing the troops.

Ankara has defended its decision, claiming that Germany had granted asylum to Turkish troops implicated in last year's failed coup attempt against the Turkish government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to raise the Incirlik issue directly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a NATO summit in Brussels next week. US President Donald Trump is also scheduled to attend the summit.

Bundesaußenminister Sigmar Gabriel in den USA (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

Gabriel is counting on his US counterpart Rex Tillerson to help solve Germany's diplomatic spat with Turkey

Cooperation 'absolutely necessary'

Gabriel told reporters that he and his US counterpart had also discussed the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. However, there was reportedly no mention of allegations that Trump last week passed on confidential information concerning the so-called "Islamic State" jihadist group to Russian emissaries during a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's to the White House.

Read more: Trump, the chatterbox?

Nevertheless, Germany's top diplomat stressed that those reports would have no bearing on the cooperation between German and US intelligence services. Gabriel said a close partnership between the two countries was "absolutely necessary" in ensuring Germany and Europe's security.

He added that "much had been done" to mend German-US relations, following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2014 that the US National Security Agency had tapped into Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

Gabriel is due to meet with US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Thursday as part of his two-day visit to Washington, before travelling to Pennsylvania to take part on a panel discussion on structural economic change. The foreign minister will then cap his trip with a visit a Mexico,

dm/gsw (dpa, AFP)

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