Turkey said on Monday German lawmakers could meet their troops at a NATO facility in Konya but continued to rule out a visit to Incirlik Air Base — an ongoing source of tension between Berlin and Ankara.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking at a joint news conference with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Ankara, said: "Currently, visits are possible to the NATO base in Konya, not Incirlik."
However, Gabriel said the German armed forces were controlled by parliament, and each German lawmaker must have the opportunity to visit troops stationed abroad, according to the constitution.
He said Turkey’s refusal to allow visits to Incirlik was leaving his government without much alternative.
"I regret this, though I ask for your understanding, because of domestic political reasons, we would have to relocate our soldiers," Gabriel said.
Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin that the cabinet would discuss the potential withdrawal from Incirlik on Wednesday.
"We will discuss further steps at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and take a decision," she said, adding they were "prepared to relocate troops", and relocation to a base in Jordan would likely take two to three months.
-Visit not appropriate 'for now'
Speaking at a news conference following a cabinet meeting later on Monday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the German delegation’s willingness to visit Incirlik Air Base was not right "for now".
"I want to underline once again that Incirlik is a Turkish [air] base. The administration of Incirlik is entirely under Turkish control. So, for now, we are thinking that it is not right for a German delegation to come to the Incirlik Base."
Kurtulmus added Germany’s decision to relocate its troops currently stationed at the base "is a unilateral decision to be taken by Germany".
Germany is reportedly planning to relocate its Incirlik troops to a facility in Jordan.
Despite meetings between Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month, the Incirlik issue remains unresolved.
Gabriel’s visit to Ankara does not seem to have resolved the months-long dispute between the two NATO allies. A scheduled meeting on Monday between Gabriel and Turkey's premier, Binali Yildirim was cancelled at short notice, according to the Turkish Prime Ministry.
Turkey blocked visits by German lawmakers to their soldiers stationed at Incirlikprimarily over the composition of some delegations which included MPs openly supportive of the PKK — a terrorist organization proscribed by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
Turkey has also been riled by assaults on Turks in Germany by pro-PKK elements, amid claims the German authorities were not taking the issue seriously.
Since 2015, Germany has stationed six Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft at Incirlik, along with around 260 personnel, providing intelligence and logistics support for anti-Daesh operations.
– PKK a ‘threat to all’
Cavusoglu, underlining the significance of Gabriel's Ankara visit, said: "We are making every effort to improve our relations in every field."
"If Germany takes a step towards us, we will take two steps in return; but we cannot ignore the current condition," he added.
Cavusoglu said he had shared with Gabriel Turkey's discomfort over several issues.
"One of them is the anti-Turkey [rhetoric] in Germany, which also leads to racism and xenophobia and serves extremist political parties," he said. "That is indeed a general problem of Europe."
Ankara has also been unhappy about a number of suspects linked to last year’s coup attempt who have claimed asylum in Germany.
"Our friend Germany should not be an asylum center for our enemies," Cavusoglu said.
Pointing out that Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO)-linked suspects should be extradited to Turkey, Cavusoglu said: "It is a very natural demand of us to expect Germany to take more serious steps over these matters."
"The PKK is a threat to all," Cavusoglu stressed, and said Germany may also face attacks from the terror group if it did not take action.
About the detention in Turkey of German daily Die Welt’s Istanbul correspondent Deniz Yucel, who is in custody pending trial on charges of making PKK propaganda, Cavusoglu said the charges were about links to terrorism, not journalism.
*Ayhan Simsek contributed to this report from Berlin.
By Nazli Yuzbasioglu
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