(Adds details on necessity of parliamentary vote)
BERLIN, June 6 Germany's foreign minister said
on Tuesday he would try to avoid damaging already strained
relations with NATO partner Turkey during a withdrawal of German
troops, as he did not want a mounting dispute to push Ankara
into closer ties with Moscow.
Sigmar Gabriel said his officials would do their best not to
escalate the situation as German troops left the Incirlik air
base in southern Turkey - in reaction to Ankara's decision to
restrict German lawmakers' access to the soldiers.
"Above all we should organise the withdrawal so that there
is no megaphone diplomacy where we trade insults," Gabriel told
He said he had agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen that the German cabinet
would deal with the issue on Wednesday.
Von der Leyen said in a statement that the ministry was
prepared to move the 280 German soldiers in Incirlik to an air
base in Jordan, which will pause refueling missions by two to
three weeks and surveillance flights by two to three months.
The issue has led to domestic tensions. Foreign ministry
sources said parliament must not approve the redeployment since
Incirlik was not specifically mentioned in the current mandate.
But Thomas Oppermann, who heads the parliamentary faction of
the Social Democrats, junior partners in the coalition, and Left
party lawmakers are demanding a vote.
Sevim Dagdelen, a Left party lawmaker, said Germany should
bring its troops and equipment home instead of moving them to
Dagdelen said she was concerned about Jordan's close ties to
Qatar after several other large Arab states, including Saudi
Arabia, severed relations with Qatar on Monday and accused it of
support for Islamist militants.
Turkey's ties with Germany and other European Union states
deteriorated sharply in the run-up to Turkey's April 16
referendum that handed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stronger
Germany, citing security concerns, banned some Turkish
politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks before
the referendum. Ankara responded by accusing Berlin of
"Nazi-like" tactics, drawing rebukes from Berlin.
Turkey has reignited a row over access to German forces on
its territory by imposing new restrictions on German lawmakers
visiting Incirlik, where German forces operate reconnaissance
aircraft and refueling planes to support U.S.-led coalition
operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"We have no interest in pushing Turkey into a corner ... we
don't want to push it towards Russia," Gabriel said.
One Western military official said the move could cost
around 20 million euros ($22.53 million), and came at a
sensitive time when the U.S.-led coalition was preparing a major
offensive in Syria.
Turkey has been seeking to improve relations with Russia.
Last month it agreed plans with Moscow and Tehran to reduce the
fighting in Syria, and has been working to end economic barriers
imposed after Turkey shot down a Russian plane in 2015.
($1 = 0.8876 euros)
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Andrea Shalal; Editing by
Andrew Heavens and Ken Ferris)