German Incirlik visit depends on stance on 'genocide' vote: Turkish minister

August 29, 2016 2:52 AM EDT

People reflect on a floor with an airplane symbol at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/Pool

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By Gulsen Solaker

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish permission for German lawmakers to visit the Incirlik air base will depend on the German government distancing itself from a resolution branding a 1915 massacre of Armenians as "genocide", Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday.

Turkey, angered by a resolution passed by the German parliament in June that described the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a "genocide", has denied German lawmakers access to the base near the Syrian frontier.

Six German surveillance jets and a refueling tanker are using it to support the U.S.-led coalition's strikes on Islamic State. Some German lawmakers have threatened to end the mission unless Ankara allows them to visit.

"It depends on the steps taken by Germany. If they take the necessary steps we will enable this visit," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, when asked about allowing the German lawmakers access to the base.

"But unfortunately I have to say that those that mingle and manipulate our history in an unfair manner cannot be allowed on this visit," he said, in reference to the Armenian resolution.

Foreign ministry officials said "necessary steps" meant the German government distancing itself from the parliamentary resolution and making clear it did not support it.

The German foreign ministry declined comment on Ankara's latest statement. It said spokesman Martin Schaefer had addressed the issue on Friday when he was asked whether the German government could distance itself from the resolution passed by the parliament.

"A resolution of the German Bundestag is a political declaration of a German constitutional body," Schaefer told reporters. "I believe it is a very good idea ... that constitutional entities only comment on each other's work very carefully, if at all."

Germany's European Affairs Minister Michael Roth, who just returned to Germany from a visit to Ankara, earlier told broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk that the two countries had made progress in resolving the dispute over Incirlik.

"I have the impression that there is great movement here," Roth said. "I hope and wish that parliamentarians from our Bundestag will soon be able to visit our soldiers."

Tense relations between the NATO allies soured further after Turkey's failed July 15 coup, with Turkey unhappy about what it saw as a slow German response in condemning the action.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Ralph Boulton)

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