ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Germany is free to withdraw its troops stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base if it wants to, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, adding Berlin should change its attitude towards Ankara.
In an interview with broadcaster NTV, Cavusoglu said Ankara was not attempting to blackmail Berlin by preventing German lawmakers access to Incirlik, where some 250 German troops are stationed as part of the coalition against Islamic State.
Turkish officials have told Reuters that such a visit by German lawmakers would not be appropriate at the moment.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the German government had been evaluating possible alternatives to Incirlik for some time and was considering moving the troops to Jordan.
“If they want to leave, that is up to them,” Cavusoglu said. “We are not going to beg. They were the ones who wanted to come and we helped them. If they want to go, we would say ‘Goodbye’,” he said.
Relations between NATO allies Germany and Turkey have deteriorated sharply after a series of diplomatic rows.
Most recently, Turkey has expressed anger that Germany is granting asylum to Turks accused of participating in a failed coup in July. The failed putsch prompted a purge of the Turkish military, judiciary and civil service.
German officials have said more than 400 Turkish citizens with diplomatic passports and other government work permits have sought asylum in Germany since last year’s failed coup.
Cavusoglu said that Germany should change its attitude towards Turkey.
“You can’t treat Turkey as you wish anymore,” he said. “If you want to get closer to Turkey, treat it like a friend, don’t act like a boss.”
Reporting by Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans