Turkey Ends Ban on |German Troop Visits

     BERLIN (AP) — Turkey has approved plans for German lawmakers to visit their country’s troops at a Turkish air base, Germany’s foreign minister said Thursday, ending a standoff that had deepened strains in the countries’ relationship.
     Turkey had refused to allow German lawmakers to visit personnel stationed at the Incirlik base since the German Parliament’s vote in June to label as genocide the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago.
     Germany has reconnaissance and refueling aircraft at the base, along with some 250 military personnel, to support the campaign against the Islamic State group.
     German military missions abroad need parliamentary approval, usually on an annual basis. Some lawmakers said the Incirlik mission couldn’t be extended later this year if visits weren’t allowed, raising the possibility of a diplomatically delicate withdrawal to another country. Germany and Turkey are allies in NATO.
     Ankara has now approved plans for a visit by members of Parliament’s defense committee, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday
     “It must be possible for a parliamentary army to be visited by its lawmakers,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “With this decision by the Turkish government we have moved a step forward.”
     The committee said that its visit to Turkey will take place Oct. 4-6.
     In a move that apparently laid the groundwork for the decision, the German government last Friday stressed that the parliamentary resolution on the killings of the Armenians wasn’t legally binding. At the same time, Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly rejected suggestions that her government was distancing itself from the motion.
     On Sunday, Merkel met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in China.
     Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event viewed by many scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.
     Turkey disputes the description. It says the toll has been inflated and considers those killed victims of a civil war.
     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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