Germany: Turkey ends ban on lawmakers visiting German troops

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2016 11:00 AM
Germany: Turkey ends ban on lawmakers visiting German troops

BERLIN (AP) — Turkey has approved plans for German lawmakers to visit their country's troops at a Turkish air base, officials said Thursday, ending a standoff that had deepened strains in the NATO allies' relationship.

Turkey had refused to allow German lawmakers to visit personnel stationed at the Incirlik base since the German Parliament's vote in June to label as genocide the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

Germany has reconnaissance and refueling aircraft at the base, along with some 250 military personnel, to support the campaign against the Islamic State group.

German military missions abroad need parliamentary approval, usually on an annual basis. Some lawmakers said the Incirlik mission couldn't be extended later this year if visits weren't allowed, raising the possibility of a diplomatically delicate withdrawal to another country.

Ankara has now approved plans for a visit by members of Parliament's defense committee, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

"It must be possible for a parliamentary army to be visited by its lawmakers," Steinmeier said in a statement. "With this decision by the Turkish government we have moved a step forward."

The committee said its visit to Turkey will take place Oct. 4-6.

In a move that laid the groundwork for Turkey's decision, the German government last Friday stressed that the parliamentary resolution on the killings of the Armenians wasn't legally binding. At the same time, Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly rejected suggestions that her government was distancing itself from the motion.

On Sunday, Merkel met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in China.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event viewed by many scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey disputes the description. It says the toll has been inflated and considers those killed victims of a civil war.

Germany "met our expectations" by stating that the resolution wasn't legally binding, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Ankara.

"They have understood what kind of approach they must display toward Turkey, that they cannot treat Turkey the way they want," Cavusoglu said.


Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.