BERLIN --- Germany has ruled out giving Turkey unfiltered access to imagery gathered by Tornado fighter jets operating out of Incirlik air base in southern Turkey as part of the broader fight against Islamic State militants, the Defence Ministry said.
German lawmakers, concerned that Turkey could use the high-resolution aerial imagery in its military campaign against autonomy-seeking Kurds, have put strict limits on how German forces can share the data they gather.
A Defence Ministry spokesman declined comment on a Der Spiegel magazine report quoting a German diplomatic cable as saying that Turkey had linked its approval of German housing investments at the air base to getting access to the imagery.
The issue, emerging a few days before Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to travel to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could cause further strains in the already frayed relationship between the two NATO allies.
The cable described Turkey's push to tie the imagery issue to German plans to build new housing at the base as "blackmail", according to the magazine report. It said two senior Turkish officials, a senior military officer and Erdogan's policy adviser Bo Arslan had personally issued the demand.
The ministry spokesman said the German air force flew its surveillance missions in strict conformity with the underlying parliamentary mandate and provided the imagery "solely to the anti-Islamic State coalition". (end of excerpt)
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