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POLİTİCS

Germany: No agreement on troop withdrawal from Incirlik

Merkel’s coalition rejects opposition parties' motion to withdraw troops stationed in Turkey for anti-Daesh fight

Anadolu Agency

Germany’s conservative-left coalition government has rejected Thursday a motion filed by opposition parties to “immediately" withdraw German troops from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, amid political tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

The joint motion filed by the socialist Left Party and the environmentalist Green Party was rejected by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and their coalition Social Democratic Party (SPD) after a heated debate in parliament.

Senior Christian Democrat lawmaker Roderich Kiesewetter criticized Turkey for refusing demands by German lawmakers to visit Incirlik Air Base, but warned against taking a hasty decision.

“A unilateral and immediate withdrawal of German troops is neither in the interest of Europe, nor in the interest of Germany,” he told lawmakers ahead of the vote on Thursday night.

He urged lawmakers to wait for the outcome of discussions at next week's NATO summit, and ongoing talks with Jordan for the potential relocation of German troops there.

Upon the suggestion of Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party, the majority of lawmakers voted in favor of submitting the motion to the Foreign Affairs Committee for further deliberation.

Since 2015, around 260 German troops, six high-tech Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft have been stationed in Incirlik Air Base, providing support for anti-Daesh operations.

Frustration

Certain German lawmakers have long been critical of the deployment due to political disagreements between Germany and Turkey, and Ankara’s reluctance to authorize visits by MPs to Incirlik.

Berlin has repeatedly underlined the importance of such visits, saying the German army was not under the control of the government, but the parliament.

But amid frustration over a perceived German reluctance in showing solidarity with Turkey against the plotters of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Ankara turned down this week another request by German lawmakers to visit the base.

The latest dispute erupted after Germany granted political asylum to a number of Turkish ex-soldiers suspected of involvement in the foiled coup attempt.

Germany’s government had distanced itself from the decision of the immigration authorities, and claimed that each asylum application was individually assessed and decisions were taken in line with domestic law and international conventions.

However, Turkey has sharpened its criticism of Germany, accusing Berlin of not taking a clear stance against the coup plotters and turning a blind eye to the activities of Gulenists, also known as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

Led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gülen, FETÖ is believed to have organized July’s attempted military takeover in Turkey, which left at least 249 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Large FETÖ network

Since the foiled coup attempt, more than 450 Turkish citizens who hold diplomatic or service passports have sought asylum in Germany, and nearly 80 of them were granted asylum, according to the German Foreign Ministry.

That number included a few dozen soldiers, several diplomats, and others officials, but most were their family members.

Many of the ex-soldiers were troops stationed at NATO bases in Europe who were recalled by Ankara following the foiled coup.

Germany, which hosts a 3-million-strong Turkish community, is among the countries where FETÖ has a large network, with dozens of private schools, businesses and media organizations.

A 2014 report by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said followers of the movement had founded more than 500 organizations across the country, including at least 24 schools and many cultural foundations.

Germany views FETÖ members with suspicion but the group is not outlawed in the country, with the authorities stressing that such a move could only come after concrete evidence of criminality is presented.

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