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Turkey blocks visit to German soldiers at air base

Turkey has blocked a request for German politicians to visit the country's soldiers at an air base in Incirlik, officials say.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the refusal was communicated to Germany's ambassador over the weekend.

Mr Schaefer told reporters in Berlin that Turkey's refusal is "unacceptable".

He said Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to raise the issue at a meeting with allies in Washington this week.

Mr Schaefer said Turkey indicated the refusal was tied to Germany's decision to grant asylum to Turkish soldiers accused by Ankara of participating in last year's failed coup.

Defence Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said the military is examining moving Germany's Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refuelling plane from Incirlik to another country.

"This is unfortunate, and we have made this clear through various channels," Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Ms Merkel reinforced the point that the base could move, noting that "one possible alternative, among others, is Jordan".

The Incirlik refusal, which follows a similar stand-off last year, is the latest in a long line of irritants in Turkish-German relations.

Among other recent events, Berlin is pushing - so far in vain - for consular access to a German journalist, Mesale Tolu, who was detained in Turkey.

It also has said that it would not allow voting in Germany on a possible Turkish referendum on reintroducing the death penalty.

Last summer, Turkey refused to allow German politicians to visit personnel stationed at Incirlik following a German parliament vote to label as genocide the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.

Turkey relented after the German government stressed that the resolution was not legally binding.

German military missions abroad need parliamentary approval, typically on an annual basis.

"The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army, and so it is absolutely necessary that there be possibilities for our lawmakers to visit their soldiers," Ms Merkel said.

AP

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