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March 22, 2003
 
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Germany to Quit AWACS Patrols if Turkey Joins War

Reuters


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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany said on Saturday it would withdraw its air crew aboard NATO AWACS planes patrolling airspace over Turkey if Ankara becomes a belligerent force in northern Iraq.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made this clear after a meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Defense Minister Peter Struck in Berlin.

He said that Germany would not accept any change in the purely defensive nature of AWACS surveillance missions in Turkey.

"If Turkey itself becomes a participant in the war that would be a new situation that would lead to the withdrawal of German soldiers from the AWACS aircraft over Turkey," Fischer told journalists. "We will not participate in a war."

Fischer and Struck said that they had so far received no confirmed information that Turkey's position had changed from a defensive nature. They said Germany's BND intelligence agency had not uncovered any evidence of a change in Turkey's position.

"If Turkey becomes an active war participant then our alliance requirements will be no longer valid," Struck said. "That would be a different situation."

There are about 200 NATO military personnel from 12 nations in AWACS crews in Turkey and approximately 30 percent of those soldiers are from Germany, according to a NATO spokesman at the AWACS headquarters in Geilenkirchen, Germany.

Turkey sent a vanguard of commandos into northern Iraq overnight, Turkish military sources said, in a move that courts U.S. displeasure and risks confrontation with local Kurds.

Schroeder and the German government have long been leading opponents of the Iraq war and have insisted Germany would not participate in any way in the war.

However, Schroeder has defended the deployment of the German soldiers in the AWACS crews because they were sent on a purely defensive mission guarding the airspace over Turkey and have no direct role in the Iraq war.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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