BERLIN — The German government on Wednesday approved the removal of troops from Turkey, escalating a feud between two NATO allies and major trading partners.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet approved the move, which was initially proposed by the Defense Ministry. Germany will now work out the details on moving troops, surveillance planes and a refueling jet to Jordan; it is expected to take two to three months.
Germany will seek talks with the U.S. and other allies in the coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to ensure a smooth transition from Incirlik to a base in Jordan, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said after the German Cabinet backed the move. Merkel said the redeployment may remove an irritant in relations and allow the two countries to focus on addressing other disputes.
“This can also lead to a situation where we don’t constantly have to engage in confrontation with Turkey on this issue,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin. “We have a whole series of shared interests with Turkey, plus close economic ties. So keeping channels of communication open is very important.”
While the immediate dispute centers on Turkey’s refusal to allow visits to Incirlik by German lawmakers, it’s only the latest flashpoint in a relationship that’s deteriorated since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidated power after a failed coup in July. Merkel has criticized Turkey’s record on human rights and press freedom, and Turkey alleges that Germany is shielding fugitives suspected of involvement in the coup.
Diplomatic tension has increased over the past year after Germany’s parliament recognized the century-old killings of Armenians by Ottoman authorities as genocide and Turkey arrested Deniz Yucel, a German-born reporter for Die Welt newspaper, in February on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda.