German lawmakers irked by NATO plane deployment
A NATO force of reconnaissance planes that includes German personnel will be sent to help Turkey police its border, drawing ire from politicians in Germany who said on Sunday they were not consulted.
"The government must immediately inform parliament of the details of this deployment, in particular what missions will be assigned to these planes and the destination of any data they collect," Tobias Lindner, the green party's head of defence matters, demanded in German daily Bild.
Though the mission involves sending German troops abroad, the government said it has no plans to consult the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament.
The defence ministry noted the deployment was aimed at carrying out airspace surveillance and not armed operations.
NATO plans a temporary transfer of AWAC aircraft from the west German base in Geilenkirchen to the Konya base in central Turkey, Germany's defence ministry wrote in a December 18 letter revealed Sunday.
Germany contributes about 30 percent of the NATO personnel serving on the 17 Boeing E-3A Sentry AWAC planes in Geilenkirchen, according to the letter to the Bundestag's defence committee.
It was not immediately clear how many planes were to be sent to help Ankara "ensure Turkish security" in view of conflicts in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
A NATO official at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels told AFP that the additional support measures for Turkey, a key member, included an increased AWACS presence, enhanced air policing plus a stepped up naval presence, including port calls, exercises and maritime patrol aircraft in the eastern Mediterranean.
The US-led alliance is also "reviewing long standing defence plans for Turkey," the official said.
"All this shows a strong commitment by allies to the defence of Turkey and will contribute to increasing stability in the region."
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said early this month the alliance was working on new support measures for Turkey but insisted the commitment predated Ankara's shooting down of a Russian jet along the Syrian border.
Tensions have been high since Ankara downed the Russian warplane which it said had violated its airspace and ignored repeated warnings.
Sahra Wagenknecht, vice president of radical left party Die Linke, called the mission "highly dangerous" and demanded a vote in the Bundestag.
The head of the Bundestag's defence committee, Social Democrat Wolfgang Hellmich, said the timing of the news was "a bit curious" given that lawmakers were away for the holidays and have not yet taken up the matter.
The lower house was consulted in early December on German plans to contribute up to 1,200 of its soldiers to international operations battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
© 2015 AFP