Germany mulls troop move from Turkey following row

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen meets with soldiers during a visit of the German armed forces at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, January 21, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that German troops stationed at Incirlik in Turkey may be relocated because of a row between the two countries over access to the base.

Mrs. Merkel described Turkey’s decision not to allow a delegation of German legislators to visit German troops stationed at Incirlik as regrettable.

She said the troops may now be moved elsewhere, with Jordan a possibility.

Germany has about 250 troops stationed at the airbase in southern Turkey.

Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained for some time over a range of issues, including Germany’s move to grant asylum to Turkish troops accused of a role in last year’s failed coup.

About 400 Turkish military staff, diplomats, members of the judiciary and other officials and their relatives had applied for political asylum in Germany, media reports say.

It is not clear how many applications have been granted, although some reports say that numerous requests have been accepted.

Mrs. Merkel said that she had made clear her government’s unhappiness over Turkey’s decision to bar several German politicians from visiting the soldiers at Incirlik. Germany has already had difficulties with previous visits to the airbase.

“I can only repeat what I said when these difficulties first arose. The German army is a parliamentary army and so it’s absolutely necessary that our MPs have opportunities to visit our soldiers.” she said.

Earlier a German foreign ministry spokesman described the decision by Turkey, a fellow NATO ally, as unacceptable.

The airbase is used by German troops and planes to carry out operations against so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

The row over preliminary moves by Germany earlier this month to grant asylum to Turkish soldiers involved in last year’s failed coup has been denounced by Turkey as actions unworthy of an ally. Turkey has urged Berlin to reconsider.

The two countries have been at loggerheads in recent years, failing to see eye-to-eye over civil rights, press freedom in Turkey and alleged Turkish persecution of its minority Kurdish population.

Zainab Sa’id