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Turkey Bars German Lawmakers From Visiting NATO's Incirlik Airbase

At the end of May, the first direct confrontation between Germany and Turkey over the future use of Incirlik airbase emerged, when Turkey's foreign minister said it is not possible to allow German lawmakers to visit troops stationed at Turkey's Incirlik air base now, although he said Ankara may reconsider if it sees "positive steps" from Berlin. "We see that Germany supports everything that is against Turkey," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara. "Under these circumstances it is not possible for us to open Incirlik to German lawmakers right now ... If they take positive steps in the future we can reconsider."

That particular refusal to let lawmakers visit German soldiers at Incirlik air base ultimately led to Berlin begin relocating its troops stationed in Turkey to Jordan.  As Reuters reported last Sunday, Germany began to pull its troops out of Incirlik, following an approval by the German parliament last month, marking the latest step in one of many bilateral disputes, ranging from a post-coup clampdown by Ankara to Turkish political campaigning in Germany.

German tornado jets were due to keep operating out of Incirlik at least until the end of July as part of a mission providing reconnaissance aircraft to support U.S.-led coalition operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In the meantime the necessary material was to be moved to a new air base in Jordan, where the planes are scheduled to be deployed by October.

 

A German air tanker refueller left Incirlik for the Jordan base on Sunday, the ministry spokesman told Reuters.

Seemingly displeased by the relocation, which Ankara thought would be mostly a bluff and Germany would not follow through, on Friday Turkey went full circle and once again refused German lawmakers permission to visit the soldiers serving at Incirlik, a party defence spokesman said quoted by Reuters, marking a new escalation in tensions between the two NATO allies.

"The government, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel, must now take the necessary steps to ensure lawmakers can soon visit the soldiers in Konya," said Rainer Arnold, defence spokesperson for the Social Democrats, the junior coalition party in the government.

It is unclear just what leverage Merkel will use in its increasingly bitter conflict with Erdogan, who as a reminder, still is the gatekeeper of European stability, as he is still withholding some 2 million mostly Syrian refugees who are just waiting for Turkey to reopen the proverbial door and Erdogan's permission to resume the trek toward Europe using the now defunct Balkan route. This is known all too well by Merkel and Brussels.

Furthermore, in an ominous twist, Germany is said to have asked for NATO support in rescheduling the trip. As a reminder, both nations are NATO members.

Meanwhile, as reported overnight, Turkey further antagonized both Germany and NATO - as well as the US - when as Bloomberg reported on Thursday, Turkey agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system. The proposed deal which was first reported here back in November 2016, has been finalized and the preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, then producing another two inside Turkey.

Most concerning for NATO, however is that the systems delivered to Turkey would not have a friend-or-foe identification system, which means they could be deployed against any threat without restriction. As we discussed last night, news of the deal are likely to strain relations between Turkey and NATO to the point of breaking, if not beyond.

Disagreements between Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO, and the U.S., the bloc’s biggest military, have also impacted business. No U.S. companies bid for a Turkish attack helicopter contract in 2006 after Turkey insisted on full access to specific software codes, which the U.S. refused to share, considering it a security risk. Turkey partnered with Italy instead in a $3 billion project to co-produce 50 attack helicopters for its army.

And now, very symbolically, it has picked the sworn enemy of NATO: Russia.