German Tornado jets are pictured on the ground at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. ©AFP
Germany says its lawmakers have been allowed to visit Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey after being refused access to the site amid a months-long row between the two NATO member states.
In a statement released on Thursday, the German parliament known as Bundestag, said its MPs will be able to visit Incirlik from October 4-6.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also welcomed Ankara’s approval of a planned visit by the defense committee of the German parliament to the air base, where some 200 German troops are stationed.
”With this decision by the Turkish government, we have taken a step forward,” he said, adding that “an armed force mandated by parliament must be able to be visited by its lawmakers.”
Germany uses the air base for flying Tornado jets over Syria and refueling flights as part of the US-led coalition allegedly battling the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region.
The country’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Berlin hopes to invest 58 million euros (USD 65 million) in mobile barracks and other facilities in Incirlik.
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. ©AP
Relations between Ankara and Berlin soured in June, when the German parliament passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian “genocide” at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I.
Armenia says up to 1.5 million of its nationals were killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, but Turkey argues that it was a collective tragedy, during which 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and as many Turks lost their lives.
Recently, however, there were signs of improvement in the strained Ankara-Berlin ties.
Last week, the German government stressed that the parliamentary resolution on the killings of the Armenians was not legally binding.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in China, and afterwards expressed hope for progress in “coming days” on the airbase visit.
This is while other sources of discord remain between the two countries, including Germany’s criticism of Turkey’s treatment of the Kurdish minority and journalists.
Berlin has also condemned the Turkish government’s escalating crackdown launched in the aftermath of the July 15 botched military coup.