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Bundeswehr to begin leaving Incirlik in July

June 18, 2017

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has told German media that Bundeswehr troops will begin pulling out from a Turkish air base in July. The move comes amid strained relations between the two NATO allies.

A Tornado jet on the ground at Incirlik
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Bundeswehr/F. Bärwald

The movement of German troops from the Turkish air base in Incirlik to a new base in Jordan is expected to take around three months, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told German media on Sunday.

"Until the end of June, our flight plans as part of the anti-"Islamic State" coalition are set," she was quoted of saying in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "After that, we'll be transferring our tanker aircraft as quickly as possible to Jordan."

Read more: Jordan: A reliable host for Germany's Bundeswehr?

Germany has more than 250 military personnel stationed at Incirlik who fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refueling flights for partner nations in the coalition against the so-called "Islamic State."

Von der Leyen also warned that the transfer will temporarily put the Bundeswehr's mission in the Middle East on hold. However, troops would be ready to be deployed from the new base in Jordan by around mid-July, she added.

A map showing Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Jordan as well as the air bases used and to be used by Germany

Moving heavy artillery, such as Tornado surveillance aircraft and the required technology will take longer. "Starting from October, the reconnaissance Tornados will start flying again, according to our timetable," von der Leyen said.

Most important was keeping the transition phase in which planes will be unable to fly as short as possible, as well as the security of the troops, she added.

Strained relations between NATO allies

The decision to pull out of the Turkish base at Incirlik comes on the back of difficult diplomatic relations between NATO members Germany and Turkey.

Read more: Taking German troops out of Incirlik: The least preferred option for NATO

Last month, Ankara blocked a German parliamentary delegation from visiting Bundeswehr troops at the base, marking the second time that Turkey had done so. Turkish officials said their decision was a response to Germany granting asylum to Turkish military personnel accused of participating in a failed coup last year - a move that reportedly enraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

While there are fears that the dispute could have damaging implications for NATO, the organization maintains that it will have no bearing on the alliance's military activities.

dm/sms(Reuters, dpa)