BERLIN (Reuters) – Turkey is blocking the plans of a senior German defense official to visit Incirlik air base in July, a spokesman for the German defense ministry said on Wednesday, in a sign of increasingly tense relations between the two NATO allies.
Germany has about 250 soldiers stationed at the base in southern Turkey, along with six Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane, all of which are participating in a U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
“Turkish officials do not currently approve of the travel plans,” a ministry spokesman said, confirming a report published by the website of the German magazine Spiegel.
Ralf Brauksiepe, a deputy to German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, had planned to visit the Incirlik military air base along with some German lawmakers next month, the spokesman said, adding that Berlin still hoped the trip could go ahead.
Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Just last week, a German defense ministry spokesman had said the two countries were finalizing an agreement on construction of new housing and aircraft facilities for German forces at the Incirlik air base, holding the deal up as evidence of the continued strength of German-Turkish military relations.
“If Turkey denies a visit to troops by our parliamentarians, then the German military should not invest any tax revenue into the expansion of the base,” Green party defense expert Tobias Lindner told Bild.
Ties between Germany and Turkey have been strained over a number of issues, including a resolution adopted by the German parliament (Bundestag) recognizing the Armenian genocide.
Immediately after the Bundestag passed the Armenian genocide resolution earlier this month, Ankara recalled their envoy to Berlin and exchanges have continued to be heated in the weeks that followed.