Germany will pull two Patriot missile batteries and 250 troops from southern Turkey by the start of next year after a reassessment of the threats stemming from the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced at the weekend that Berlin would let its three-year Patriot mission lapse in January instead of seeking parliamentary approval to extend it.
Germany, the United States and the Netherlands all deployed Patriots in early 2013 after Turkey asked its fellow NATO partners for help in protecting its territory amid an escalating civil war in Syria. The Dutch ended their mission earlier this year and were replaced by the Spanish.
“The threat in this war-torn region has shifted in focus,” von der Leyen said in a statement on the defense ministry’s website. “It now stems from the terror organization Islamic State. Therefore, we will remain engaged in the region in a continued effort to stabilize it.”
The decision follows criticism from some German officials of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s military crackdown against Kurdish militants and his declaration last month that the peace process he initiated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 2012 was effectively at an end.
“The Erdogan government has invested a great deal in reconciliation with the Kurds,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “It can’t allow all the bridges that have been built up over the course of this process to be torn down.”
At the same time, Steinmeier warned against judging Turkey too quickly, noting that it was taking on more refugees from Syria and Iraq than any other country and coping with a major threat on its border from the civil war in Syria.