German parliament group scraps Turkey trip at last minute

A delegation of German lawmakers scrapped plans to visit Turkey after being told at the last minute that it couldn't hold talks with officials or visit the Turkish parliament building, a deputy parliament speaker said Wednesday.

The cancellation adds to a growing list of issues straining German-Turkish relations. Turkey also has refused to let another group of lawmakers visit German troops stationed at a Turkish air base as part of the campaign against the Islamic State group.

Deputy speaker Claudia Roth was to head a cross-party delegation on a May 25-28 visit to Ankara, Diyarbakir and Istanbul for meetings with officials, lawmakers and non-government groups. The group included the head of the German parliament's human rights committee.

"Yesterday we received the information that it is currently not considered opportune at the very, very, very highest Turkish level to conduct political talks with the German parliamentary side in Turkey," Roth, of the opposition Greens, told reporters in Berlin. She described the incident as a "political provocation."

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Turkey's deputy foreign minister informed his German counterpart Monday evening that the visit couldn't go ahead. The Turkish official cited "a domestic political situation in Turkey that wasn't conducive" to the trip, Schaefer added.

Germany's ambassador to Turkey says that he can't recall "such a friendly and dialogue-oriented visit by a group of German lawmakers being so rudely and bluntly rejected," Schaefer said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both attend a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday. Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said it is "entirely possible" the two will meet on the sidelines.

Germany is considering moving some 270 troops stationed at Incirlik Air Base to Jordan or another country if Ankara won't relent on allowing lawmaker visits. The country also has Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane at the base.

German military missions abroad need parliamentary approval, and German leaders say it's essential for lawmakers to be granted access to troops serving abroad.

Erdogan said in Ankara Wednesday that Turkey had received no official information about plans for a possible move.

But "it is not a big deal for us," the president said. "If they go, we'll say 'goodbye.'"


Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.