German lawmakers prevented from visiting Turkey's Incirlik air base, officials say

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2017 6:15 AM

ANKARA/BERLIN (Reuters) - A group of German lawmakers has been blocked from visiting troops stationed at Turkey's Incirlik air base, officials said on Monday, a move that could reignite a row between the NATO allies over Berlin's access to the base.

The lawmakers were denied a visit to the base as it was not deemed appropriate at this time, sources in Turkey's foreign ministry told Reuters, without elaborating. Some 250 German troops are stationed at Incirlik as part of the fight against Islamic State in neighboring Syria, according to the German armed forces.

A spokesman for the German foreign minister said it was "completely unacceptable" for Turkey to keep German lawmakers from visiting their own soldiers.

"A visit by lawmakers must be made possible," Martin Schaefer said, adding that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel would raise the issue with colleagues from other NATO governments in Washington on Tuesday.

German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said Berlin would consider alternative places to station the soldiers.

Relations between the NATO allies were strained in the run-up to Turkey's April 16 referendum, when Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing public safety concerns.

President Tayyip Erdogan accused Berlin of "Nazi-like" tactics. A narrow majority of Turks backed the referendum to change the constitution and grant Erdogan sweeping executive powers. Germany and other Western allies have voiced concern about what they fear is growing authoritarianism in Turkey.

Last year Turkey banned German lawmakers from visiting the base for months in response to a resolution in the General parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, a term Ankara rejects.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Thomas Escritt; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler)