Merkel Issues Ultimatum to Erdogan Over Access to Airbase

  • German leader makes strongest threat to move Incirlik troops
  • Warning comes at NATO summit where Trump makes first visit

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, arrives for a summit of world leaders at NATO headquarters in Brussels on May 25, 2017.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her strongest signal yet that she’ll pull German troops out of Turkey unless President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lets lawmakers in Berlin visit them, further cracking a show of unity at a NATO summit.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting where U.S. President Donald Trump hectored European allies to pay more for defense, Merkel confronted Erdogan about access to the soldiers at the NATO base in Incirlik where Germany stations reconnaissance jets that fly missions over Iraq and Syria. The 28 NATO members were meeting for the first time at the alliance’s new steel-and-glass headquarters on Thursday in Brussels.

“I’ll make very clear in my discussion with the Turkish president that it’s essential for us, because we have a parliamentary army, that our soldiers can be visited by members of the German parliament,” Merkel told reporters before the bilateral meeting. “Otherwise, we’ll have to leave Incirlik.”

The warning is the latest sign of a deterioration in Germany’s relations with Turkey as Erdogan has expanded his powers and provoked concern across Europe that he is trampling on democratic standards. Germany has refused to deny asylum to Turkish soldiers who are suspected of involvement in a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, adding to tensions that arose when the German parliament recognized the killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule a century ago as genocide.

The two met one-on-one before the main NATO meeting began in the Belgian capital, Merkel’s office said. She also raised the issue of German journalists who had been jailed by Turkish authorities.

Earlier this month, Merkel called Turkey’s stance on visits to Incirlik “deplorable” and said Germany may move the warplanes based there to a location outside Turkey, possibly Jordan.

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