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German lawmakers call for troop withdrawl from Turkey

March 12, 2017

Cooling relations between Berlin and Ankara have spurred cross-party calls for German troops to leave the Incirlik air base. Incirlik has been the Bundeswehr's key base in its fight against the so-called "Islamic State."

Türkei Bundeswehr Tornado auf dem Luftwaffenstützpunkt Incirlik
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Bundeswehr/F. Bärwald

German lawmakers from across the political spectrum on Sunday called on the Bundeswehr to withdraw troops and jets from its air base in Turkey.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister-party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, cited the worsening relations and escalating war-of-words between Berlin and Ankara as reason to pull troops out of Incirlik, a key airbase located by the Syrian border.

The CSU's spokesman for foreign and security policy, Florian Hahn, told the German "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that "amid this heated atmosphere, it has become increasingly uncertain that the Turkish government can and will guarantee the protection of our soldiers in Incirlik." Germany should not allow its troops to become a mere bargaining chip in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power games, he added.

Hahn also indentified Jordan as an improved alternative as a base for Germany's Middle East operations.

Those calls garnered support from the Left Party, Germany's largest opposition party. Its leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, said: "In light of the current developments in Turkey, it is overdue that we withdraw our Tornado [jets] and Bundeswehr soldiers, as well as halting the supply of weapons to Turkey immediately."

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere sought to dispel any chance of withdrawal, however, saying that Bundeswehr soldiers were there to "protect NATO interests, and therefore our interests."

Some 240 German troops are currently stationed at Incirlik air base, most of which are involved in reconnaissance missions in the fight against the so-called "Islamic State" jihadist group.

Rows and Nazi slurs

This is not the first time German lawmakers have called on the German military to pull out of Turkey. In June, Ankara forbade German delegates from visiting Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in Incirlik, a response to the German government's decision to recognize the killing of around 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 as genocide.

While that dispute was eventually resolved months later, tensions between Berlin and Ankara have once again become inflamed in recent days after a handful of German municipalities canceled referendum campaigns from Turkish ministers. Officials from President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party had planned to whip up support from Turkish expatriates ahead of a controversial constitutional reform bill to expand the powers of the presidency.

While a number of cities allowed the rallies to go ahead, Erdogan nevertheless likened the cancellations to "Nazi practices."

German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert described the comments as "absurd and out of place."

dm/jlw (dpa, AFP)

Germany-Turkey: The escalating war of words