Turkey allows German MPs to visit base after row: minister

AFP - [email protected] • 8 Sep, 2016 Updated Thu 8 Sep 2016 14:52 CEST
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Berlin said Thursday that Ankara will allow German lawmakers to visit a NATO airbase near Syria after refusing access amid a months-long row over Germany recognising the World War I-era massacre of Armenians as "genocide".

"I welcome the fact the Turkish government has now approved the plans for a visit by the defence committee of the German parliament" to the Incirlik base in Turkey, said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"With this decision by the Turkish government, we have taken a step forward," he said after months of discord since the German parliament in June angered Turkey by labelling the Ottomans' World War I-era killing of Armenians a "genocide".

The lawmakers will be able to visit Incirlik from October 4-6, the Bundestag said in a statement.

Steinmeier added that "an armed force mandated by parliament must be able to be visited by its lawmakers".

Germany has some 200 troops stationed at the base in southern Turkey, from where it flies Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuelling flights as part of multinational efforts to fight the Islamic State group.

Germany hopes to invest €58 million in mobile barracks and other facilities in Incirlik, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday.

Germany last week stressed that the Armenia resolution was a political statement and not legally binding, in what was widely read as an attempt to soothe Turkey's anger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel then met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a G20 summit in China last weekend and afterwards said she hoped for progress in "coming days" on the requested airbase visit.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had signalled Wednesday Ankara was ready to calm the bitter dispute between the EU's top economy and its NATO ally, but warned against treating Turkey as a "second-class country".

Other sources of discord remain, including German criticism of the Erdogan government's treatment of journalists, its Kurdish minority and of many of the alleged plotters detained in sweeping arrests after the failed coup in July.

In the latest issue to trouble relations, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Tuesday condemned the confiscation of the recording of an interview it had conducted with a Turkish minister as a "blatant violation" of press freedom.

Merkel's top spokesman Steffen Seibert insisted Wednesday that "press freedom, for us, is a high, I would even say non-negotiable" right.

Germany is home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

As the EU's top destination for refugees last year, Germany has relied on an EU-Turkey agreement designed to stop the massive influx of people fleeing war and poverty.



AFP 2016/09/08 14:52

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