(Adds comments from lawmaker, comedian)
ISTANBUL/BERLIN Oct 5 A delegation of German
lawmakers visited Incirlik air base in southern Turkey on
Wednesday, defusing a months-long row that had prevented them
meeting troops serving in the coalition against Islamic State.
Karl Lamers, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's
conservative Christian Democrats, said the visit had paved the
way for parliament to vote to extend the deployment of nearly
240 German troops stationed at the base.
"The Bundestag has got access to the troops and that means
nothing stands in the way of an extension of the German military
mission in December," Lamers told the RND newspaper group.
Lawmakers had threatened to end the deployment when its
mandate expires in December.
The German Air Force has kept Tornado surveillance jets and
a refueling plane at Incirlik to contribute to the fight against
Islamic State. The German soldiers are at Incirlik to help
defend Turkish troops against possible attacks from Syria.
Turkey in June barred the politicians from the base in
response to a resolution in the German parliament declaring the
1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.
In July, Turkey briefly grounded coalition planes at
Incirlik after an abortive military coup and amid concerns that
rogue troops might try to flee the country from the base.
The U.S. Air Force has around 5,000 personnel at Incirlik,
which serves as a hub for the U.S.-led coalition trying to
defeat Islamic State over the borders in Syria and Iraq.
Merkel in September persuaded President Tayyip Erdogan to
allow the parliamentarians to visit. Their trip is taking place
with little publicity. Anadolu said it was closed to media.
Lamers said German lawmakers had an "open, honest" dialogue
with Turkish officers and there were no restrictions on their
ability to move around the base.
Another German lawmaker, Agnieszka Brugger, a member of the
Green party, told RND housing facilities for the German troops
at the base were not satisfactory. Germany plans to invest 58
million euros to improve infrastructure at the base, including
new quarters for troops.
NATO allies Germany and Turkey have crossed swords in recent
months over the flow of migrants to Europe through Turkey and
German criticism of the Turkish response to the coup attempt,
which has included a purge of security and civil service
personnel and the arrests of more than 30,000 people.
German prosecutors said on Tuesday they had dropped an
investigation of a comedian accused of offending a foreign
leader after reciting an obscene poem about Erdogan on national
television. Erdogan had filed a complaint against the comedian,
Boehmermann released a video on Twitter on Wednesday in
which he welcomed the decision and called the situation "a big
sad joke given what journalists, satirists and opposition
figures have had to and continue to endure in Turkey."
(Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley and Daren Butler and Andrea
Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)