Germany's cabinet on Wednesday recommended pulling troops from the Incirlik air base in Turkey. The Bundeswehr has about 280 military personnel stationed at Incirlik, from where they fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refueling flights for partner nations in the coalition against the Islamic State (IS).
Ahead of the meeting, Bundestag deputies sought to remind the cabinet that parliament has the last word on military deployments. "In all circumstances, the Bundestag, which has the relevant authority, must consider the new situation," Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary ombudsman for the armed forces, told the RND newspaper group for reports published on Wednesday.
A majority of deputies, including Greens and the legislators for the ruling Christian Democrats and their junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, support moving the troops from Turkey to a nearby location. The Left would like to see the Bundeswehr pull out of its mission against IS entirely.
'We cannot accept'
The pullout looked inevitable after testy talks on Monday between German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his counterpart in Ankara, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said Turkey would block a Bundestag delegation from visiting troops stationed at Incirlik. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen refused limits being put on lawmakers' ability to visit troops.
"Incirlik is a good air base for the fight against Islamic State, but we cannot accept not being able to visit our soldiers," she said on Monday, adding that an alternative had been identified in Jordan's Azraq air base. She added that King Abdullah supports the move, which could halt refueling missions by two to three weeks and surveillance flights by two to three months.
Gabriel quickly shifted to damage control mode. "Above all, we should organize the withdrawal so that there is no megaphone diplomacy where we trade insults," Gabriel told Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday. "We have no interest in pushing Turkey into a corner," Gabriel said.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO would take no sides and lamented that the key alliance members had been unable to achieve their own diplomatic solution to what has been a long-running dispute. "It has no effect on NATO activities," Stoltenberg said in May. "The dispute is a bilateral issue between Turkey and Germany." A speaker from the Pentagon said the United States also had no official opinion on the matter.
mkg/sms (Reuters, dpa)