Germany says it will start pulling out its troops and aircraft from a Turkish airbase in July and will move them to a base in Jordan, following a bitter dispute over Turkey’s refusal to allow German lawmakers to visit the soldiers at the base.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday that the troops as well as tanker aircraft and jets will begin pulling out from the Turkish air base in Incirlik and will be moving to Jordan’s Muwaffaq Salti airbase.
The European country has about 280 troops stationed at the Incirlik airbase along with six Tornado fighter jets and a tanker plane used for refueling.
Von der Leyen said the military plans to carry out operations against Daesh militants are set until the end of June. “After that, we’ll be transferring our tanker aircraft as quickly as possible to Jordan.”
She said the tanker aircraft will be operational again after the transfer approximately in the second half of July. But the relocation is expected to disrupt operations by the Tornados for at least two months, she said, reassuring, however, that all the jets would be expected to become fully operational before October.
The German defense minister said moving heavier equipment would take longer.
Germany deployed the contingent to the Turkish airbase in December 2015, as part of a US-led coalition that has purportedly been fighting the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
Berlin started to look for possible alternatives for the base as its ties with Ankara took a new hit in mid-May, when Turkey for the second time blocked a scheduled meeting of German lawmakers with the German soldiers stationed at the base.
Ankara made the decision in response to Berlin’s move to grant asylum to Turkish military personnel whom Ankara had accused of participating in a failed coup to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
Ankara made a similar move last year after the German parliament in June 2016 recognized the Ottoman Empire’s World War I-era massacre of Armenians as “genocide.”
In response to Belin’s decision to leave the Turkish airfield, Ankara has said Germany will be able to carry out the withdrawal according to its own plans and “their own way.”
The Jordanian airbase, which is now to host the German forces, is situated near the northern town of al-Azraq. It had been used by Belgian fighter jets between 2014 and 2015 and is currently being used by US and Dutch forces.