The German cabinet backed the withdrawal of its troops from Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, the German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen said, following Ankara’s refusal to allow German lawmakers access to its soldiers there.
The decision announced by the defence minister on Wednesday followed a lengthy impasse over the visits, which had increased friction between the NATO allies.
Germany plans to redeploy the 280 military personnel stationed at Incirlik, along with surveillance planes and refuelling jets, to an airbase in Jordan. However, it stressed it wants to minimise any disruption to the coalition operation against ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS).
Foreign deployments in Germany require parliamentary approval.
Lawmakers are still discussing whether the proposed withdrawal should be put to a parliamentary vote.
Von der Leyen said she would hold immediate talks with the United States army and the US-led coalition fighting ISIL to minimise the impact of the move and would brief the cabinet and parliament next week.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said talks would continue with Turkey even after troops leave the airbase.
“We have a huge range of common interests with Turkey, and also close economic relations,” she told reporters after the decision.
“Discussions are very necessary”.
The withdrawal process for refuelling aircraft would take about two to three weeks and the relocation of reconnaissance jets two to three months.
German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel visited Turkey on Monday in a last attempt to convince Ankara to avert a pullout, however, Turkey had once again refused for “domestic political reasons”.
He said he wanted to avoid further hurting ties with Turkey and pushing it towards Russia.
Turkey was infuriated over German authorities’ decision to grant asylum to soldiers and other individuals that Turkey accuses of participating in a failed coup attempt last July.
Relations were further tested when Germany, citing security concerns, banned some Turkish politicians from campaigning on its soil and Turkey jailed two German journalists.