Merkel urges talks to resolve airbase row with Turkey

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged talks to resolve ongoing disputes with Turkey on German lawmakers’ visits to troops stationed in Turkey as part of NATO missions.

In an interview with public television ARD on Sunday, Merkel said current disputes between Berlin and Ankara should be resolved through bilateral talks, and talks among the allies at NATO.

“In terms of Konya, this is more about a NATO mission, for which Germany is providing significant contribution. Therefore, not only the German government, but also NATO would have talks with Turkey,” said Merkel.

Ankara postponed a planned visit by a group of German lawmakers to NATO base in central Konya province, saying that such a visit was not politically appropriate at this point in time.

NATO’s mission in Konya provides intelligence support for international coalition fighting Daesh and around 20 German soldiers are stationed at the base.

Several German politicians called for withdrawing German soldiers from Konya airbase, due to Ankara’s reluctance to give permission to such visits. However, Merkel declined to take hasty decisions and opted to wait for the result of talks with Turkey.

Germany’s opposition lawmakers are pushing the government ahead of general elections in September to urge Turkey to give them unrestricted right to visit the troops in the country.

In June, Germany decided to withdraw its Tornado surveillance jets and around 260 troops from Incirlik, another key military base in Turkey.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for turning a blind eye to outlawed groups and terrorist organizations, while German politicians criticized Turkey over human rights and freedom of the press issues.

Despite repeated requests by Ankara to arrest suspects involved in last July’s coup attempt, German authorities have turned down extradition requests and argued that Ankara should first provide legally sound evidence.

Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) which is believed to have organized the foiled coup bid, runs dozens of private schools, businesses and media organizations in Germany.

Since the July 15 coup attempt, nearly 4,000 FETO suspects went to Germany from Turkey and other countries, according to local media reports.

Apart from FETO, the terrorist PKK group has also a large network in Germany and carries out significant propaganda, recruitment and funding activities.

The group has nearly 14,000 followers in the country, from whom it annually collects more than €13 million (over $14 million), according to the reports of German domestic intelligence agency, BfV.