German Chancellor considers moving planes from Turkey to Jordan

Members of the coalition against ISIS wait to load a C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane at Incirlik Airbase on March 14, 2017. Photo: Incirlik AB

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region After the Turkish government prohibited German parlimentarians from inspecting its soldiers at an airbase in Incirlik, Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin will explore other options including Jordan.

"We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate," Merkel said on Monday. Germany, as a member of the international coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and per its agreement with Turkey, uses the airbase to station its Tornado reconnaissance jets. The coalition by air supports the Kurdish Peshmerga and Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ground fighters.

The German newspaper Die Welt reported that multiple times deputies from parliament's defense committee have asked to inspect the 250 airmen at the base most recently last week. However, Turkish authorities have cancelled their requests with 48 hours of notice.

"The Bundeswahr are an army under the parliament and it is absolutely essential that its members have the opportunity to able to inspect their soldiers," Merkel added.

"That means looking at searching for alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan," she said speaking at an event to celebrate her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party's state election win in the western federal state of North Rhine Westphalia.

German officials were allowed to visit Incirlik last year only after Merkel said that the reports of their inspections would not be legally binding, according to Die Welt.

Lawmakers in Berlin have repeatedly requested that Ankara guarantee a permanent right of inspection.

"This is the essence of the issue. If a technical military team wants to come from Germany when there are already German troops deployed here, [Ankara] does not consider it appropriate for the rest of the delegation to come," the Turkish Daily Sabah reported Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as saying last week.

The German Defense ministry prepared a report earlier this year that identified eight possible new suitable sites in Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus.

German-Turkish diplomacy has been strained in the run up to Turkey's referendum on 18 constitutional amendments after Germany denied Turkish politicians from holding rallies for expatriates living in Germany.

"If I want to come to Germany, I will, and if you don't let me in through your doors, if you don't let me speak, then I will make the world rise to its feet," Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a public event on March 6 broadcast on television, as reported by Reuters.

Erdogan also had said the speech prohibitions by Germany were "fascist actions" and "no different to those of the Nazi period."

Merkel and Erdogan will both attend the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on May 24-25.

Erdogan will meet with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Turkey approved the US to fly attack and strike aircraft from the base for the fight against ISIS in early 2015.

All family members of the 2,500 US troops assigned to Incirlik were ordered to evacuate in March 2016, the US Defense News Media Group reported.