Opinion: Bundeswehr, Turkey must keep up Incirlik talks | Opinion | DW | 20.05.2017
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Opinion: Bundeswehr, Turkey must keep up Incirlik talks

To withdraw Germany's troops from Turkey now would be more than a mistake. It would be a victory for the Islamic State, DW's Volker Witting writes.

Of course, it would be nice to make a statement by pullingthe Bundeswehr out of Incirlik and getting Germany's soldiers out of Turkey. It would show that despot Recep Tayyip Erdogan how it feels to be kicked in the shin by an ally. He would know that Germany is not going to put up with threats and provocations anymore.

Nevertheless, spiteful or hasty action would be a mistake. Erdogan certainly taunts whenever he can: Prohibiting members of the Bundestag from visiting troops at Incirlik for a second time now, jailing two German journalists, comparing the current government in Berlin to its national socialist predecessor as he campaigned for his referendum to concentrate power in the presidency. Admittedly such actions are hard to stomach.

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DW's Volker Witting

Despite all this, the government must keep negotiating with Turkey while insisting that Germany's leaders have the right to visit their troops. For the Bundeswehr is indeed a parliamentary army. In autumn 2015, politicians gave troops their marching orders: Put a stop to the Islamic State (IS), which has been responsible for thousands of deaths and contributed to the current mass displacement in the Middle East. Because of this, German parliamentarians must keep up diplomacy with Turkey - even if they find it tedious.

Few choices left

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is desperate. He is now counting on assistance from the United States, and has even threatened to terminate the Bundeswehr's mission in Turkey. On Gabriel's recent visit to Washington, US officials apparently guaranteed him diplomatic support in any stalemates with Turkey. That is not an insignificant fact: The United States is the undisputed leader of NATO - an alliance in which Germany and Turkey are technically allies.

Another relief is that Thursday's motion by the Greens and the Left party to immediately withdraw all of Germany's 260 soldiers from Incirlik failed to garner a majority in the Bundestag. If the opposition parties had succeeded in voting German troops out of Turkey, NATO would have been weakened, and IS would have chalked up a victory.

Currently, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is looking for alternative bases for the troops now stationed at Incirlik. Jordan has been mentioned as one possible option. Yet the disadvantages of that are more than financial: Jordan is not a member of NATO.

Which leaves one option: to keep negotiating with Turkey. The May 25 NATO heads of state summit in Brussels will offer another opportunity for that. Word has it that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will even meet with President Erdogan himself on the sidelines. She will have to talk straight with him.

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