German MPs visit Turkish air base amid tensions
KONYA - German lawmakers arrived in Turkey Friday to visit soldiers stationed in the central Turkish province of Konya as relations remain tense between the NATO allies.
Some 20-30 German troops have remained at Konya as part of an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACs) mission, part of the US-led coalition's campaign against the Islamic State group in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
The delegation had initially been due to come to Turkey in July for the routine visit, but the trip was blocked by Ankara.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg then intervened and the visit was organised by the alliance, rather than Germany.
Relations between Berlin and Ankara have deteriorated since last year's failed coup tried to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the subsequent crackdown.
The deputy secretary-general of NATO, Rose Gottemoeller, is leading the delegation including seven German MPs from different parties, according to the Bundestag.
"We expressly welcome the fact that this visit could take place," Germany foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.
"A visit is a visit. It is already good... We will see how things continue," he said, adding that these types of visits organised within the NATO framework could not constitute "a lasting and sustainable political solution".
The row over MPs' access to German troops on Turkish soil boiled over in June when Berlin pulled out 260 troops from Incirlik base in southern Turkey and relocated them to Jordan, after Ankara repeatedly thwarted lawmakers' efforts to visit.
Germany has condemned the arrest of over 50,000 people, including German citizens, under the state of emergency imposed following the attempted putsch.
Ankara in response has repeatedly accused Berlin of supporting "terrorists", referring to Kurdish separatists and suspected coup-plotters.
Ties worsened this week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her intention to seek an end to European Union membership talks with Turkey, which Ankara reacted to in anger, accusing German politicians of "populism".