Turkey bars German MPs from inspecting Konya NATO airbase

Turkey bars German MPs from inspecting Konya NATO airbase
Ankara has withdrawn permission extended to German lawmakers to check on the troops, stationed at a NATO military base in Konya in Turkey’s southwest. The last-minute move sparked outrage in Berlin with MPs suggesting to pull out the contingent altogether.

The Turkish authorities notified the German Foreign Ministry of its decision not to allow inspection by MPs late Thursday, just days ahead of the scheduled visit on Monday next week, the Chairman of the German Parliament’s defense committee, SPD deputy Wolfgang Hellmich, told Deutschlandfunk.

As the reason for the visit’s abrupt cancellation, Turkish officials cited the dismal state of the German-Turkish relations, requesting that the trip be postponed indefinitely.

Denouncing the Turkish authorities’ conduct, Hellmich said he sees no difference between this case and Ankara’s earlier decision to block access to a Turkish Air Force military base in Incirlik that ultimately led to the relocation of the German troops stationed there to Jordan.

“I see this as the same pattern,” the lawmaker said, stressing that the right for German MPs to visit the troops in Turkey should be unconditional and not depend on Turkey’s assessment of bilateral relations between the countries.

“Our position is crystal clear: We need a basic, [and] unrestricted right to visit,” he said, adding that since the facility in Konya is a NATO military base, Turkey’s unwelcoming stand is becoming “indeed a problem for NATO.” 

Other lawmakers voice similar concerns, urging the chancellor to step in the dispute.

“The government, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel, must now take the necessary steps to ensure lawmakers can soon visit the soldiers in Konya,” Rainer Arnold, defense spokesman for the Social Democrats’ parliamentary faction, said, as cited by Deutsche Welle.

If Ankara does not reverse its course, the German Parliament will have to consider withdrawing troops from Konya as well.

“Under the given conditions I see no possibility, if this [situation] does not change fundamentally, that we can extend the mandate [for troops to be stationed in Konya] in November,” Hellmich said, calling on the German government to appeal to NATO to resolve the stalemate “at the highest level.”

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) needs approval of the Social Democrats to extend the mission mandate.

Commenting on Turkey’s request to “delay the journey of a parliamentary delegation,” the German Foreign Ministry said on Friday, it has been engaged in “intensive talks” with NATO and other parties “to set a new date as soon as possible.”

READ MORE: Germany is ‘committing suicide’ by not allowing me to speak to Turks during G20 – Erdogan

Meanwhile, while there is no clarity on the issue, Hellmich suggested the German authorities should start looking for alternative locations as soon as possible.

“If Turkey’s attitude, the attitude of the Turkish government does not change…and this now concerns all NATO facilities, but especially in Konya, then I don’t see how we can stay there,” he said.

Germany is amidst a process of transferring its 250 military personal and six Tornado surveillance jets from the Incirlik air base to Jordan after it was repeatedly denied access to the base by Ankara. The last such refusal took place in May, after Berlin refused to extradite suspects in the foiled coup attempt to Turkey, who had sought asylum in Germany in the aftermath of the coup. Some 400 Turkish citizens filed for asylum in Germany following the events of July 15 last year.

‘Mistreatment of anybody is never justified’: HRW to RT on abuse of suspected ISIS fighters in Iraq

Iraqi forces must stop carrying out executions of suspected IS militants without trial and subjecting them and their families to torture, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of HRW’s regional branch, told RT, citing newly released videos.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of HRW’s Middle East & North Africa division, spoke to RT about videos that emerged earlier this week showing men wearing Iraqi forces uniforms beating and killing men who appear to be captured Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) fighters.

In one of the videos, uniformed men can be seen dragging a detainee to the edge of a cliff, before pushing him over and shooting him dead.

The incident, which may constitute a violation of international law by the Iraqi military, drew strong condemnation from Human Rights Watch, which verified the videos as being filmed in the neighborhoods of recently liberated Mosul.

“We don’t really have much information about these videos in particular, but they do match cases that we’ve been documenting for many months now, the extrajudicial executions by Iraqi security forces – both Federal police forces as well popular mobilization forces,”Whitson told RT.

She added that the group has documented “really many cases of soldiers executing suspected ISIS militants, torturing and abusing family members of suspected ISIS militants.”

Whitson argued that by employing practices like extrajudicial killings, Iraqi forces are erasing the distinction between them and the jihadists, adding that no matter what the captives are suspected of, the Iraqi forces must abide by international law.

“The mistreatment of anybody is never justified. Even if they are ISIS fighters, they should not be mistreated – that’s why we have international laws that are going to separate us from ISIS. That’s why we can say that the international community is better than ISIS because we don’t mistreat detainees,” she said, adding that Baghdad must refrain from violence towards the captives if they want to not only recapture the swathes of land, but also “win the peace.”

READ MORE: General blasts activists who claim Mosul retaken from ISIS with excessive force

The Iraqi authorities, she argued, must guarantee human rights to all Iraqi citizens and detainees, as “without that, their efforts to regain control of Mosul will fail.”

Whitson went on to note that although the Iraqi authorities had pledged to investigate the alleged human rights violations with regards to prisoners, they largely failed to do so.

“To date we have never seen the Iraqi government actually hold any soldiers accountable for these abuses that are being documented,” she said, adding that the reluctance to investigate potential abuse of military force is not a unique phenomenon and the same, if not worse, could be said about other international warfare, including the conflict in Syria.

“We have seen far worse for example in Syria, where efforts for accountability have been blocked by Russia at the International Criminal Court (ICC),” she said, adding that in order to make countries like Iraq and Syria accountable for alleged abuses, they should first join the ICC.

Russia has repeatedly been the subject of severe criticism for its counter-terrorism mission in Syria, accused of lack of precision in its airstrikes, resulting in civilian casualties.

READ MORE: Russia & Syria launch large-scale humanitarian op for Aleppo residents – defense ministry

Moscow has repeatedly refuted the allegations, saying that the airstrikes were carried out on terrorist targets. During the battle for Aleppo, where Moscow provided air support for Syrian ground troops, Russia started delivering aid to the suffering people and also brokered a deal on several humanitarian corridors to let civilians flee the battle zone. Moscow repeatedly pointed out that terrorists and militants prevented the unarmed population from fleeing the conflict zone.

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