Two days after Germany's foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel - standing next to his Turkish colleague Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara - said his "country has no choice but to begin the process of pulling its forces out of Turkey's Incirlik air force base" as the Turkish government will not allow all German lawmakers to visit troops there, Germany followed through on its threat and on Wednesday, the German Cabinet backed the withdrawal of the country's troops from Incirlik air base in Southern Turkey.
Incirlik air base
The decision was announced on Wednesday by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen after a lengthy and often bitter diplomatic impasse over the visits, raising friction between the NATO allies and according to some, putting the fate of the alliance in jeopardy.
Germany now plans to redeploy the 280 military personnel stationed at Incirlik, along with surveillance planes and refueling jets to an air base in Jordan. However, it stressed it wants to minimize any disruption to the US-led coalition operation against ISIS. In light of the complete failure in diplomatic relations between the two member nations, that may be problematic.
Since foreign deployments in Germany require parliamentary approval, German lawmakers are still discussing whether the proposed withdrawal should be put to a parliamentary vote.
Von der Leyen said she would hold immediate talks with the US army and the US-led coalition fighting ISIL to minimise the impact of the move, and also brief the cabinet and parliament next week. However, to avoid giving an impression that NATO is crumbling, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said talks would continue with Turkey even after troops leave the air base.
"We have a huge range of common interests with Turkey, and also close economic relations," she told reporters after the decision.
"Discussions are very necessary". Yes they are, the only problem is that as today's announcement revealed, they lead nowehere.
The withdrawal process of refueling aircrafts would take about two to three weeks and the relocation of reconnaissance jets, two to three months.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Turkey on Monday, in a last attempt to convince Ankara to avert a pullout, however Turkey had once again refused the visits for "domestic political reasons". He said he wanted to avoid further hurting ties with Turkey and pushing it towards Russia.
As discussed on Monday, Turkey was infuriated over German authorities' decision to grant asylum to soldiers and other individuals that Turkey accuses of participating in a failed coup attempt last July. Relations were further tested when Germany, citing security concerns, banned some Turkish politicians from campaigning on its soil as well as Turkey's jailing of two German journalists.
Taking a word from Hillary Clinton's dictionary, earlier this month, Merkel called Turkey’s stance on visits to Incirlik “deplorable” and warned Germany may move the warplanes based there to a location outside Turkey, possibly Jordan. Which is precisely what it has now done.
It was not clear if other NATO members would join Germany and pull their forces from the strategic airbase in sympathy.