Germany says optimistic Turkey will end ban on German lawmaker visits

September 5, 2016 6:47 AM EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said on Monday it was optimistic Turkey would lift a ban on German lawmakers visiting German troops working at a NATO air base in the country though Ankara had not yet taken a specific stance after intense talks on the matter.

Turkey banned German MPs from visiting the Incirlik base near the Syrian border in June after they passed a resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a genocide. German lawmakers in turn threatened to end Germany's military mission in fellow NATO state Turkey.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said there had been intense German-Turkish discussions about the dispute, which could jeopardize German participation in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State insurgents.

"We are optimistic and hope and expect that all the desired visits by German lawmakers for Incirlik or other sites will be approved," Schaefer told a regular government news conference. "But we don't know that yet for certain."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an upbeat tone after meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in China on Sunday, saying she expected progress on both the Incirlik dispute and visa-free travel for Turks to Europe.

Both Germany and the EU, which depend on Ankara to keep a lid on the movement of migrants to the bloc, are trying to ease tensions with Turkey after criticizing Erdogan's crackdown on opponents following the failed coup in July.

Schaefer said a decision by Turkey to approve the lawmaker visits would be a "good and important step forward" in repairing ties strained by the Armenia resolution and Ankara's concerns about Germany's response to the putsch attempt.

"It would send a signal that the German-Turkish relationship has made progress, at least on that point," he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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