Ankara, September 9, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Ankara has given permission for German lawmakers to pay a visit to Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base, after previously refusing access amid a row over a bill in the German Bundestag labeling the World War I-era killing of Anatolian Armenians as “genocide.”
“We have given permission to German parliamentarians to visit İncirlik since German authorities have met our expectations with a statement that the bill on the so-called genocide is not legally binding,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Sept. 8, during a press conference with visiting Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.
Strained relations between Ankara and Berlin due to the Armenian bill worsened after Turkey rejected a German parliamentary delegation’s visit in late June to İncirlik Air Base, which hosts 250 German troops, six surveillance jets and a refueling tanker.
Berlin had threatened the removal of its military presence at the base to another regional country in response. The German troops and jets at İncirlik contribute to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.
Hours before Çavuşoğlu’s statement, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had said in Berlin that they had agreed with Turkey for the lawmakers’ visit.
“I welcome the fact the Turkish government has now approved the plans for a visit by the defense committee of the German parliament” to İncirlik, said Steinmeier.
“With this decision by the Turkish government, we have taken a step forward,” he said, after months of discord since the German parliament angered Turkey by declaring the World War I mass killings of Anatolian Armenians in 1915 “genocide.”
“An army that answers to parliament must be able to be visited by their deputies,” Steinmeier said.
Steinmeier said Sept. 2 that Germany’s parliamentary vote was “not legally binding,” however the move signaled an attempt to mend frayed ties with Turkey.
“The German parliament naturally has the right and the freedom to pass any resolution it likes, but the Bundestag itself has said that not every resolution is legally binding,” Steinmeier said on Sept. 2.
Çavuşoğlu said Sept. 8 that Germany had seen that the perception of “we want something and we get it” was not valid.
“They have understood what kind of an attitude they need to have towards Turkey. To all the countries that take a positive step towards Turkey, we will also take a step towards them,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“We will have a positive view of everyone who acts like a man. For those who have a contrary thought, we will give them a necessary answer.”