Germany, Seeking Airbase Access in Turkey, Steps Back From Armenian Genocide Recognition
Germany's government is planning to concede to Turkish demands on the country's recognition of the Armenian genocide in exchange for the German military's continued access to a Turkish airbase, a German magazine has reported.
The compromise is aimed at resolving a crisis that began in June when the German Bundestag adopted a resolution recognizing the mass killings ot Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide. In response, Turkey recalled its ambassador and blocked the visits of German members of parliament to German troops serving at the Incirlik air base.
Germany has deployed about 250 German troops, six surveillance jets and a refueling tanker to Incirlik as part of the international coalition fighting ISIS in Syria. Germany threatened to pull out of that operation if its parliamentarians weren't allowed to visit. "The German army answers to parliament," Social Democrat leader and Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the regional newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in July. "And if parliament cannot visit its army, then the army cannot stay there. This is absolutely clear," Gabriel said.
Turkey has laid out two conditions for German MP visits to Incirlik: stronger statements of support for the Turkish government in wake of the coup attempt in July, and stepping back from the Armenian genocide recognition.
“It depends on the steps taken by Germany. If they take the necessary steps we will enable this visit,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mehmet Çavuşoğlu said on Monday. “But unfortunately I have to say that those that mingle and manipulate our history in an unfair manner cannot be allowed on this visit."
German EU minister Michael Roth visited Ankara last week and told media that the crisis was close to being resolved. “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.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an interview Thursday, also expressed optimism that a breakthrough was close: "We're all in agreement that lawmakers must be allowed to visit our soldiers," Merkel said in the interview on Thursday. "I'm also trying to achieve progress through discussions."
On Friday, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported that "a deal had been agreed between the German Foreign Office and Merkel's Chancellery that would see the government directly distance itself from the Armenia resolution." The deal would apparently consist of an explicit statement saying that the Bundestag resolution was non-binding.
However, there are apparently still some awkward details to be worked out. "Discussions had taken place about who should make the announcement, the report said," according to an English-language account of the report on Deutsche Welle," with neither [Foreign Minister Frank-Walter] Steinmeier nor Merkel prepared to do so personally. Both politicians are said to privately support the parliament's position."
Later on Friday, though, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert denied the report, making it unclear how Germany might keep access to Incirlik.