Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel travelled to Turkey on Monday (5 June) to negotiate once again on a general right for Members of the German Bundestag to visit Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in İncirlik. However, his mission had a larger overall aim, namely to end the wrangling in order to improve relations with Turkey.
Following talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Gabriel made clear that domestic policy reasons in Turkey precluded general visiting rights. As a result, Bundeswehr soldiers could no longer be stationed at this base.
Interest in improving relations
The fact that this final attempt to reach agreement was all the more important for bilateral relations is shown by the wide range of differences of opinion between Germany and Turkey. For this reason, the withdrawal of the German troops must be conducted as amicably as possible in order to continue exchange on these difficult topics. Foreign Minister Gabriel said the aim was to “prevent a situation in which we completely lose contact”.
“I have the impression that we need far more talks,” he said.
Irrespective of İncirlik, relations were “in troubled waters overall”, Gabriel said after his visit. He made use of the bilateral talks in Ankara to state his views clearly and thus to try to find common ground. At the same time, he made clear that the fundamental principles of the rule of law were non‑negotiable for Germany and reiterated his condemnation of the imprisonment of German journalists in Turkey. At a meeting with one of Deniz Yücel’s lawyers, Gabriel asked about Yücel’s conditions in prison and promised further support. At the end of his trip, Foreign Minister Gabriel met Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairperson of CHP, the largest Turkish opposition party.