German parliament group scraps Turkey trip at last minute

AP News
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Posted: May 24, 2017 9:07 AM
German parliament group scraps Turkey trip at last minute

BERLIN (AP) — A delegation of German lawmakers scrapped plans to visit Turkey after being told at the last minute that it wouldn't be able to hold talks with officials or visit the Turkish parliament building, a deputy parliament speaker said Wednesday.

The cancellation adds to a growing list of issues straining German-Turkish relations, and comes on top of Turkey's refusal to allow another group of lawmakers to visit German troops stationed at a Turkish airbase as part of the campaign against the Islamic State group.

Deputy speaker Claudia Roth, a member of the opposition Greens, was to head a four-member delegation from three parties on a May 25-28 visit to Ankara, Diyarbakir and Istanbul for meetings with officials, government and opposition lawmakers and non-government groups. The group included the head of the German parliament's human rights committee.

"Yesterday we received the information that it is currently not considered opportune at the very, very, very highest Turkish level to conduct political talks with the German parliamentary side in Turkey," Roth told reporters in Berlin. She described the incident as a "political provocation."

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Turkey's deputy foreign minister informed his German counterpart, Markus Ederer, Monday evening that the visit couldn't go ahead. The Turkish official cited "a domestic political situation in Turkey that wasn't conducive" to the trip, Schaefer added.

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Germany's ambassador to Turkey says that he can't recall "such a friendly and dialogue-oriented visit by a group of German lawmakers being so rudely and bluntly rejected," Schaefer said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both attend a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels Thursday. Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said it is "entirely possible" that the two will meet on the sidelines.

Other issues souring relations include the jailing of two German journalists in Turkey and German authorities' decision to grant asylum to Turkish soldiers accused by Ankara of participating in last year's failed coup.