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Turkey blocks German politicians from Incirlik airbase

Angela Merkel says German troops could be moved from Incirlik after Ankara says visit was 'not appropriate at this time'
Former German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen at in Incirlik, in January 2016 (AFP)

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that Germany would explore moving its troops from Turkey's Incirlik airbase after German politicians were blocked from visiting soldiers based there.

The group was denied a visit to the base as it was "not deemed appropriate at this time", sources in Turkey's foreign ministry told Reuters, without elaborating.

About 250 German troops are stationed at Incirlik as part of the fight against Islamic State in neighbouring Syria, according to the German armed forces.

Merkel said: "We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate.

"That means looking at alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan."

A spokesman for the German foreign minister said it was "completely unacceptable" for Turkey to keep German politicians from visiting their own soldiers.

"A visit must be made possible," Martin Schaefer said, adding that Germany's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, would raise the issue with colleagues from other Nato governments in Washington on Tuesday.

German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said Berlin would consider alternative places to station the soldiers.

Relations between the Nato allies were strained in the run-up to Turkey's 16 April referendum, when Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing public safety concerns.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Berlin of "Nazi-like" tactics. A narrow majority of Turks backed the referendum to change the constitution and grant Erdogan sweeping executive powers.

Germany and other Western allies have voiced concern about what they fear is growing authoritarianism in Turkey.

Last year Turkey banned German politicians from visiting the base for months in response to a resolution in the German parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, a term Ankara rejects.

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