Turkish permission for German lawmakers to visit the Incirlik air base will depend on the German government distancing itself from a resolution branding a 1915 massacre of Armenians as “genocide”, Turkey’s foreign minister said today (29 August).
Turkey, angered by a resolution passed by the German parliament in June that described the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a “genocide”, has denied German lawmakers access to the base near the Syrian frontier.
German lawmakers declared the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a “genocide” in a symbolic resolution on Thursday which risks hurting relations with Ankara just as Berlin and European partners need its help in tackling the refugee crisis.
Six German surveillance jets and a refueling tanker are using it to support the U.S.-led coalition’s strikes on Islamic State. Some German lawmakers have threatened to end the mission unless Ankara allows them to visit.
Germany is in discussions with Turkey to ensure that the German military can keep flying reconnaissance missions from Incirlik Air Base in support of a US-led fight against Islamic State, Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday (25 August).
“It depends on the steps taken by Germany. If they take the necessary steps we will enable this visit,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a news conference in Ankara, when asked about allowing the German lawmakers access to the base.
“But unfortunately I have to say that those that mingle and manipulate our history in an unfair manner cannot be allowed on this visit,” he said, in reference to the Armenian resolution.
Foreign ministry officials said “necessary steps” meant the German government distancing itself from the parliamentary resolution and making clear it did not support it.
Germany’s European Affairs Minister Michael Roth, who just returned to Germany from a visit to Ankara, earlier told broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk that the two countries had made progress in resolving the dispute over Incirlik.
“I have the impression that there is great movement here,” Roth said. “I hope and wish that parliamentarians from our Bundestag will soon be able to visit our soldiers.”
Roth said he was received warmly and openly in Turkey during a visit aimed at rebuilding German-Turkish ties.
Tense relations between the NATO allies soured further after Turkey’s failed 15 July coup, with Turkey unhappy about what it saw as a slow German response in condemning the action.
Roth said Germany had immediately condemned the coup attempt, but could have responded more compassionately.
Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died during forced removals in 1915 by the Ottoman army from what is now Eastern Turkey, but Turkey denies that the move constituted genocide.
The country's attitude vis-à-vis the bloodshed in 1915 is one of the defining aspects of modern Turkish diplomacy, with any use of the term ‘genocide’ either within Turkey or abroad swiftly denounced by Ankara.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed in 2007 after openly saying that the events of 1915 were genocide.