World Bulletin / News Desk
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday she wanted to visit German troops deployed in the Incirlik airbase in Turkey, amid an argument with Ankara that led to the cancellation of a trip by a German parliamentary delegation.
“It is very natural for the leadership of the Defense Ministry to visit German soldiers deployed abroad. Hence I will be visiting Incirlik in the next few days and have talks with our soldiers about their situation,” von der Leyen told German weekly Bild am Sonntag.
The minister underlined the close cooperation between the two NATO allies and said she was very much surprised with Turkey’s refusal this month of a German parliamentary delegation visit headed by Ralf Brauksiepe, parliamentary state secretary at the Defense Ministry, to the Incirlik airbase.
Ankara’s move came after the German parliament approved earlier this month a controversial resolution stating the Ottoman Empire had committed a “genocide” against Armenians and Christian minorities in 1915 and 1916.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government did not actively support the resolution. Merkel and senior ministers, including Defense Minister von der Leyen did not attend the vote on June 2.
Von der Leyen said the German parliament has a special role on the issues of defense and military, and that she would clarify this during her visit to Incirlik in talks with Turkish counterparts.
“I would like to use this opportunity to tell Turkey what it means when we say German armed forces (Bundeswehr) is a parliamentary army. Those lawmakers were the ones who had raised their hands in support of Patriot deployments of German armed forces in order to protect Turkey from Syrian missiles,” she stressed.
Germany had deployed Patriot batteries in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras between 2013 and 2016, as part of a NATO mission to counter possible threats from Syria.
Since January 2016, Germany has stationed four Tornado surveillance jets and around 200 soldiers in Incirlik, to support an anti-Daesh air campaign of the international coalition.
Turkey and Germany have intensified their cooperation last year as Chancellor Merkel described Ankara as a key partner in addressing the refugee crisis and seeking solution to the conflict in Syria.
The two countries held their first joint cabinet meeting in Berlin in January, and expressed their commitment to strengthen cooperation in various fields, including economy, foreign and security policy and the fight against terrorism.
But the German parliament’s resolution describing the 1915 incident as “genocide” has sparked tensions between Ankara and Berlin, leading Turkey to recall its ambassador for consultations.
Turkey dismisses the alleged genocide, but acknowledges that there were casualties on both sides during the events in World War I.
According to Turkey's viewpoint, deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 occurred after some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.
Turkey describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.
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