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Bundeswehr

German defense minister vows to address troop 'problems' in Turkey

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere has admitted that conditions could be better for Bundeswehr troops stationed in Turkey. After a report that was critical of the situation, the minister promised improvements.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere admitted he had noted that there were issues to address while on a visit to the site where German soldiers are deployed.

"Even though I tend to be shown the better side of how things are, I also perceived that there were certain problems," de Maiziere told the German mass circulation daily Bild's Saturday edition.

De Maiziere stressed that the armed forces first had to ensure that they could fulfil their mission. At present, he said, the most important aspect was to improve troop conditions.

Striking a diplomatic note, de Maiziere said that Turkey had gone to great lengths to provide good accommodation. He added that work on new quarters was being completed.

"When this new accommodation is ready, a lot of things will change when it comes to the issues that have been brought up," he said.

De Maiziere made the comments after a report by Germany's special commissioner for the armed forces, Hellmut Königshaus, which said that cooperation between the German and Turkish contingents was "perceived mainly as a problem."

The report said that meals were monotonous and that usually there was only cold food. Toilets were described as "filthy," most of them having no flush. The bodies of dead dogs, shot by the Turkish soldiers, had been left to decompose on the site.

'No fraternization'

Soldiers' post was being held back so that it did not reach them for days, or even weeks, the document went on. Soldiers had to change euros in privately owned currency exchange offices, at poor rates.

He said Turkish officials have reprimanded German soldiers for contact with their Turkish counterparts. One German female soldier was allegedly pushed by a Turkish general during a visit by de Maiziere to the base at Kahramanmaras. She later complained of bruising.

De Maiziere made the visit in February with his Dutch counterpart Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaer. Kahramanmaras lies some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border, with some 300 German troops manning NATO-deployed anti-missile batteries.

Germany, the Netherlands and the US are each operating two batteries to help protect Turkey from possible missiles launched in Syria.

rc / ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)