Germany decides to quit Turkey’s Incirlik base

A file photo shows German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, second right, and Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, right, speaking before reporters during a visit at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2017

Germany decides to quit Turkey’s Incirlik base

ANKARA: Germany has announced it will move its aircraft and 250 military personnel out of Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base, following a weeks-long diplomatic row and the breakdown of bilateral talks in Ankara.
The main reason behind the conflict was Turkey’s refusal to allow German MPs to visit the base, which is currently used for airstrikes against Daesh in Syria. Turkey instead granted them access to NATO base in Konya, another southern province.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his regret and said that Ankara must understand that Germany will need to transfer it soldiers and military equipment to another location.
He was speaking on Monday following a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The German contingent is expected to be relocated to Jordan’s Azraq air base. The transfer was formally decided by the German government on June 7.
It is not the first time the Incirlik air base has come under the spotlight in relations between members of the anti-Daesh coalition. Earlier this year Turkey warned Washington it would block US forces from using the base if it did not receive support for its Euphrates Shield operation in Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said of Germany’s intended move: “There is no decision we have taken on this. They can have it their own way.”
Germany’s withdrawal from Incirlik — where its jets conduct reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria — will take a toll on the US-led coalition against Daesh, especially during the Raqqa operation.
Germany also announced that its surveillance flights will be interrupted for a few weeks.
“The presence of Germany at the Incirlik air base was connected with the anti-Daesh efforts but its withdrawal from the base does not mean that it will renounce contributing to (the) anti-Daesh international coalition,” Oytun Orhan, a researcher on Syria at the Ankara-based think-tank Orsam, told Arab News.
Orhan noted that Germany’s decision may result in problems in terms of cost and effectiveness of its military operation because no other air base can bring similar operational advantages.
“But it will not harm its presence in the anti-Daesh coalition especially considering that its role within the coalition was limited compared to the US,” he said.
After Incirlik, the best second option is actually the base in Jordan, Orhan added.
Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who now chairs the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), said Germany’s decision to move its soldiers out of Incirlik will have both tactical and strategic consequences.
“The Jordan option can help to maintain the German assets involved in the campaign but it will inevitably complicate the coordination efforts between the allied nations taking part in the counter-Daesh campaign,” Ulgen told Arab News.
“At the strategic level, the principle of alliance solidarity stands to be affected with a NATO (member) deciding to move its soldiers out of the territory of a NATO ally, to a non-NATO country.
“Difficulties that emerged in bilateral relations between two NATO allies ended up affecting the effectiveness of a multilateral military campaign.”


Yemen’s rival powers battle over banknotes

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Yemen’s rival powers battle over banknotes

  • The Houthis outlawed the use and possession of crisp new Yemeni riyal bills
  • The riyal stood at about 560 to the dollar across Yemen before the ban was announced in mid-December

SANAA/ADEN: Yemen’s warring sides opened a new front in their five-year conflict on Saturday - a battle over old and new banknotes that threatens to create two economies in the same state.

As of midnight, the Houthi movement which controls the capital Sanaa outlawed the use and possession of crisp new Yemeni riyal bills issued by its rivals in the internationally recognised government based in the southern port town of Aden.

The Iran-allied Houthis, who say people should only use the old bills, have defended the ban as a move against inflation and what they call rampant money-printing by the government.

The government has branded the ban an act of economic vandalism. And the population, as ever, have been left stuck in the crossfire.

Yemenis from both sides told Reuters the ban had effectively created two currencies with diverging values, adding to the turmoil in a state already governed by two powers and brought to its knees by the war.

In the one-month build up to the ban, people in Houthi-controlled areas have been queuing to try to exchange their new riyal notes for old, turning the grubby and torn bills into a prized and relatively scarce commodity.

The riyal stood at about 560 to the dollar across Yemen before the ban was announced in mid-December. The rate has since slipped a little in Houthi-controlled areas to around 582, but slumped much further to 642 in the south, an area now awash with new bills.

That relative strength might look like a boon for northerners, if only they could get hold of enough of the old notes in time to keep afloat in the largely cash-based economy.

“We go for the exchange and they won’t take [the new notes] from us. Or say they need three, four or five days,” craftsman Abdullah Saleh al-Dahmasi told Reuters on a Sanaa street a week before the ban came into force.

“The new one isn’t accepted and the old one is worn out, they have to find a solution,” the 27-year-old said.

A few days before the ban came in, around 20 angry men and women were turned away from one exchange which said it had filled its quota for the day. Many had been coming there for three days in the hope of swapping their cash.

North-south trade has become far more expensive as traders have to buy and sell two types of riyal - told apart by the state of the paper and the different sizes and designs.

TWO CENTRAL BANKS

Many people in Sanaa told Reuters they felt the ban was needed to constrain inflation. But they were facing difficulties in the short-term.

“When people saw that new currency come into circulation, they held onto it as it was new and shiny. But now it’s a problem that they have it,” said 28-year-old Abdallah Bashiri, a private sector worker in Sanaa.

In that city, legal exchanges will swap 100,000 Yemeni riyals (around $172) in new notes for electronic currency that can be spent on things like phone credit or electricity bills, for a small fee of around $1.50.

But things get more challenging when it comes to actual paper that can be spent in food markets. Sanaa residents said unofficial exchanges are offering to change 100,000 riyals of new notes into 90-96,000 riyals of the scarcer old.

After the Houthis stormed the capital Sanaa in 2014 and ousted the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen’s central bank split into two branches - one in Sanaa, under Houthi control, and one internationally recognised branch in Aden, which has access to money printers.

The Aden authorities have defended their decision to step up the printing of new money from 2017, saying it was an attempt to deal with a building cash crunch and pay public sector salaries.

“The Houthis ... did not consider the economic cost to society,” Yousef Saeed Ahmad, adviser to the governor of Aden’s central bank, told Reuters there this week.

“We hope the measures taken are short-term. They cannot be kept up because the economy is one, it is interrelated and commodities flow from Sanaa to Aden and vice versa. This measure will aggregate the living conditions of all Yemenis,” he said.

The Houthis have defended their ban as a way of defending the value of the currency.

“The Sanaa central bank had to take measures to stem the dangerous practices the Aden central bank was carrying out through their monetary policy,” said Sami Al-Siyaghi, in charge of foreign banking operations at the Sanaa central bank.

“The imposition of [Aden’s] monetary stance on us led to the collapse of the national currency against foreign currency ... With each new issuance you notice a commensurate collapse in the riyal against foreign currency,” Siyashi told Reuters.