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German, Turkish foreign ministers to meet over airbase row

The relationship with Turkey is one of Germany's most important outside Europe [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 May, 2017

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The airbase in southern Turkey has been at the centre of a bilateral row since Ankara earlier this month blocked a German parliamentarian visit to the base.

Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will fly to Turkey for talks next week over the thorny issue of access to the Incirlik military air base near Syria.

"We will discuss the question of Incirlik," Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

The airbase in southern Turkey has been at the centre of a bilateral row since Ankara blocked a German parliamentarian visit earlier this month. The base is used by the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

The relationship with Turkey is one of Germany's most important outside Europe, in part due to its three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, ties between the NATO allies have been strained especially since a failed coup in Turkey last year, and have worsened over multiple issues including a referendum campaign to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Relations plunged further after Turkey imprisoned Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist with Die Welt, on terror charges earlier this year while Germany granted political asylum to some Turkish military officers accused of involvement in the attempted putsch.

Berlin has warned it could move its 250 military personnel stationed at the Incirlik base, flying Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuelling flights for partner nations battling IS, to another location in the region, likely Jordan.

Turkey justified preventing the German parliamentary group from visiting the air facility by accusing Berlin of having offered political asylum to Turkish nationals who took part in the July 2016 attempted coup.

"At the moment, it is impossible for us to open Incirlik to German deputies," Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

"If (the Germans) make positive steps in future then we will reconsider".

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