German defense minister to visit Turkey base despite snub | News | DW | 26.06.2016
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German defense minister to visit Turkey base despite snub

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is to meet German troops at Turkey's Incirlik air base, despite a diplomatic row. Last week, Ankara denied a German parliamentary delegation access to the facility.

"It goes without saying that the leaders of the German Defense Ministry visit their soldiers in action," von der Leyen told the German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag" on Sunday.

She said she was planning a trip to the Incirlik air base in the coming days despite Turkey's refusal to allow a delegation from Germany's Bundestag to visit next month.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that "the visit of non-military delegations and especially of politicians to the base is not seen as suitable."

Anger at snub

Von der Leyen blasted the decision, telling the paper "I have never experienced anything like this," adding that she would also use her visit "to explain to Turkey what it means to have a military under parliamentary control."

"These are the same members of parliament who raised their hands for the Patriot mission of the German military to protect Turkey from Syrian missiles," she said, referring to a three-year deployment of NATO anti-missile systems in southern Turkey that ended last year.

Relations between Berlin and Ankara hit a new low earlier this month when the German parliament unanimously voted to label the 1915-16 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman-Turks as genocide.

German warplanes at Incirlik base

Germany is part of the US-led coalition fighting "Islamic State" from the Incirlik airbase

Turkey rejects the use of the term genocide to describe the mass expulsion and killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey is the successor state.

Ties have also been stretched by negotiations over a controversial EU-Turkey migration deal and two German media broadcasts that poked fun or insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Germany must have access

Germany has around 250 troops and several Tornado jets stationed at the base, a strategically important site in southern Turkey for the US-led air campaign against the "Islamic State" extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

A German defense ministry spokesman declined to provide further details on von der Leyen's travel plans, but earlier this week German MPs called on the government to consider alternative locations for the country's Tornado jets and stop investing taxpayers' money in the expansion of the base.

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mm/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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