German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has told German media that Bundeswehr troops will begin pulling out from a Turkish air base in July. The move comes amid strained relations between the two NATO allies.
The withdrawal of German troop from the Turkish air base in Incirlik to new base in Jordan is expected to take around three months, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told German media on Sunday.
“Until the end of June, our flight plans as part of the anti-“Islamic State” coalition are set,” she was quoted of saying in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “After that, we’ll be transferring our tanker aircraft as quickly as possible to Jordan.”
Germany has more than 250 military personnel stationed at Incirlik who fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refueling flights for partner nations in the coalition against IS.
Von der Leyen also warned that the transfer will temporarily put the Bundeswehr’s mission in the Middle East on hold. However, troops would be ready to be deployed from the new base in Jordan by around mid-July, she added.
Moving heavy artillery, such as Tornado surveillance aircraft and the required technology will take longer. “Starting from October, the reconnaissance Tornados will start flying again, according to our timetable,” von der Leyen said.
Most important was keeping the transition phase in which planes will be unable to fly as short as possible, as well as the security of the troops, she added.
Strained relations between NATO ally
The decision to pull out of the Turkish base at Incirlik comes on the back of difficult diplomatic relations between NATO members Germany and Turkey.
Last month, Ankara blocked a German parliamentary delegation from visiting Bundeswehr troops the base, marking the second time that Turkey had done so. Turkish officials said their decision was a response to Germany granting asylum to Turkish military personnel accused of participating in a failed coup last year – a move that reportedly enraged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While there are fears that the dispute could have damaging implications for NATO, the organization maintains that it will have no bearing on the alliance’s military activities.