German MPs visit troops at Turkey’s NATO airbase

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – German lawmakers have visited their troops at the NATO airbase in Konya, Turkey, but maintained that underlying disputes needed to be resolved before they can extend their forces’ mission at the base. 

A handful of German airmen are participating in NATO air patrols from the Turkish air base. Germany’s military is under parliamentary control and lawmakers insist they must be able to freely visit their soldiers wherever they serve. 

Friday’s visit came under NATO facilitation after Turkey had earlier barred a German delegation from the base amid tensions between Berlin and Ankara. 

Seven German parliamentarians visited in the company of NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller. 

Tobias Lindner, of the Green party, tweeted that he was flying to Konya with “Mixed feelings. Friendly atmosphere, but unclear whether visitation problem is solved.”

A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative party Henning Otte said “It must be possible for us to visit our soldiers serving abroad,” Reuters reported. 

Ankara had blocked a planned visit in July as relations between the NATO allies deteriorated. 

Ankara became angry earlier this year when Berlin banned Turkish politicians from campaigning in Germany ahead of Turkey's constitutional referendum, citing security concerns. Turkey responded to the ban by accusing Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics.

While NATO was able to negotiate a visit this time, tensions between Germany and Turkey have only escalated. In an election campaign debate this week, Merkel said she opposed Turkey’s membership in the European Union while her rival, Martin Schulz, criticized the loss of democratic principles under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Ankara officials hit back accusing the Germans of careless tones and fueling discrimination and racism. 

Similar disputes in the past led Germany to move their military aircraft and roughly 250 troops from Turkey’s Incirlik airbase to Jordan.

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