Turkey Permits German Lawmakers’ Visit to Incirlik Air Base

Air base in Incirlik, Turkey (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters/Pool)
Air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters/Pool)

Air base in Incirlik, Turkey (Photo: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters/Pool)

ANKARA (Reuters)—Turkey has agreed to allow German lawmakers to visit soldiers stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in October, signaling some progress in easing strains between the two NATO allies, Germany’s Foreign Minister said on Thursday.

Turkey had banned German lawmakers from visiting the base in response to a parliamentary resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.

The row over Incirlik has compounded tensions between Germany and Turkey just as Chancellor Angela Merkel needs Turkish help in dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the move, saying that it must be possible for deputies to visit an army that answers to parliament.

“With this decision by the Turkish government, we are a little further on in our relations,” he said in a statement.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen also called the Turkish decision a “good sign.”

It was unclear whether Ankara had agreed to just one visit to the 250 German soldiers at the NATO air base in October or whether it was a more general decision.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish government. The pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper quoted Turkish diplomatic sources as confirming that the German delegation had been given “partial authorization.”

Critics say Merkel has become over dependent on Ankara because of the migrant crisis and that she is turning a blind eye to Turkey’s human rights record.

Tensions between Germany and Turkey had been mounting before the coup attempt in July, especially after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took legal action against a German comedian who ridiculed him, as well as over the parliamentary resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

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