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German, Turkish foreign ministers to meet over airbase row

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German, Turkish foreign ministers to meet over airbase row
A German colonel at Incirlik air base in Turkey. Photo: DPA/Bundeswehr.
11:39 CEST+02:00
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will fly to Turkey for talks next week over the thorny issue of access to the Incirlik military air base near Syria, his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

"We will discuss the question of Incirlik," Cavusoglu told a televised press conference of the meeting planned for Monday.

The airbase in southern Turkey has been at the centre of a bilateral row since Ankara earlier this month blocked a visit there by German parliamentarians to the base which is used by the international coalition fighting terror group Isis.

German media also reported on Wednesday that Germany is leading an effort to reject Turkey's bid to host a NATO summit next year. Die Welt cited NATO diplomatic sources as saying that "we do not want to strengthen Turkey internationally, and we want to avoid the impression that NATO supports the internal policies of the Turkish government."

Germany, along with France, the Netherlands and Denmark, is instead suggesting the summit be held in Brussels, according to Die Welt.

The relationship with Turkey is one of Germany's most important outside Europe, in part due to its three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, ties between the NATO allies have been strained especially since a failed coup in Turkey last year, and have worsened over multiple issues including a referendum campaign to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Relations plunged further after Turkey imprisoned Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist with Die Welt, on terror charges earlier this year while Germany granted political asylum to some Turkish military officers accused of involvement in the attempted putsch.

SEE ALSO: EU Human Rights Court takes on case of German reporter detained in Turkey

Berlin has warned it could move its 250 military personnel stationed at the Incirlik base, flying Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuelling flights for partner nations battling IS jihadists, to another location in the region, likely Jordan.

Turkey justified preventing the German parliamentary group from visiting the air facility by accusing Berlin of having offered political asylum to Turkish nationals who took part in the July 2016 attempted coup.

"At the moment, it is impossible for us to open Incirlik to German deputies," Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

"If (the Germans) make positive steps in future then we will reconsider".

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