Report: Berlin looks into pulling jets out of Turkey

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Germany must find alternatives to the Incirlik Air Base and pull its soldiers and weapons from Turkey, German MP Rainer Arnold told the Spiegel magazine. Ankara has been blocking official visits from Berlin to the base.

The Bundeswehr was considering moving its Tornado reconnaissance jets to Cyprus or Jordan, the Spiegel reported on Thursday.

Turkey currently hosts six of the warplanes and some 240 German soldiers in Incirlik Air Base near Ankara. The jets are currently involved into the aerial campaign against the “Islamic State.”

At the same time, the two countries are engaged in a diplomatic row that saw Ankara repeatedly block German officials from visiting the troops.

The mission is set to expire in December.

“If we are not allowed to visit our soldiers, the continuation of the mandate is impossible,” said Reiner Arnold, defense spokesman for the ruling party SPD.

The SPD is a junior partner to Angela Merkel’s CDU, but their votes are necessary for prolonging the mandate in the German parliament.

No-fly zone

The diplomatic clashes first started in June, when the parliament passed a resolution branding the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 as “genocide.” Ankara then blocked a visit to the base by the Undersecretary for defense Ralf Brauksiepe.

After that, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen managed to travel to Incirlik. However, a delegation of journalists and a separate group of parliamentarians were later forbidden from flying to the NATO base.

Ankara has refused to budge despite strong diplomatic pressure from Berlin.

“The German government must immediately find other bases for the German soldiers,” defense spokesman Arnold told the Spiegel.

Worst-case scenario

Pulling out of Turkey would a “nightmare” for the German army, according to the article.

The move would stop the anti “IS” sorties for at least two months, as well as raise the cost and present new logistic challenges, unnamed military sources told Spiegel. Also, the German contingent would be separated from the US troops, who are in charge of leading the mission.

Moreover, the dispute could also jeopardize a future German mission in Turkey, involving AWACS jets set to monitor airspace above “IS” territory.

Rumors of moving nukes

The German Defense Ministry did not officially confirm it was preparing to move the Tornados and tanker jets from Turkey.

“We would like to continue our mission from Turkey, but the Incirlik base is not the only option,” the magazine quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

Earlier this month, media reports suggested that US was moving its nuclear warheads from Incirlik to Romania due to instability in Turkey and rising tensions between Ankara and its western allies. Romania denied the move.

dj/xx (Reuters, AFP)

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