Erdoğan’s spokesman: We have right to shut off İncirlik Air Base access at any time

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İbrahim Kalın

As a debate over revoking US access to İncirlik Air Base recently emerged, the spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, İbrahim Kalın, said on Thursday that Turkey always has the right to shut off access to İncirlik.

Speaking on the pro-government Kanal 24 TV station, Kalın responded to a question on access to İncirlik, saying, “We have the right to shut [off access to] İncirlik, but before doing that the situation would have to be evaluated.”

On Wednesday, the staunchly pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote that revoking US access to İncirlik Air Base was debated in the first Cabinet meeting of 2017.

Selvi referred to major terrorist attacks that have taken place in the country as well as a failed coup on July 15 in his column

Selvi, known for his close connections to the Turkish government, wrote in Hürriyet that the rise in terrorist attacks targeting Turkey was followed by granting the US-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL access to İncirlik on July 22, 2015. He claimed that in the first Cabinet meeting of the year, which was led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the suggestion to restrict American access to İncirlik was made.

Selvi concluded his column by saying that due to high expectations from US President-elect Donald Trump, Turkey would not make any decision on the issue until he takes office and his stance becomes clear.

Selvi’s column appeared on the same day that Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık said the lack of support from the US-led coalition forces in Syria for a Turkish-backed operation in the al-Bab region in Syria’s north aimed at clearing it of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants has caused Turkey to question the status of its İncirlik Air Base.

“We hope that all the coalition forces, mainly the US, will give the aerial support and other kinds of support Turkey needs for its Operation Euphrates Shield and that the necessary steps are taken without any delay. It is thought provoking that the countries with which we have been together for years in NATO and those which established a coalition against Daesh [another acronym for ISIL] have not supported this operation launched by the Free Syrian Army and supported by the Turkish Armed Forces against Daesh in the critical region of al-Bab,” Işık said on Wednesday.

İncirlik is considered a pivotal and convenient location for US operations in Syria and in the greater region.

As part of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels drive ISIL terrorists from the border city of Jarabulus on Aug. 24, in a dramatic escalation of its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Another similar remark came from Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said on Wednesday that the Turkish people want to revoke US access to İncirlik Air Base in the south of Turkey.

Stating that there has been a trust problem with the US, Çavuşoğlu told the Anatolia news agency that people are asking the government why they allow the US to continue to use the base.

However, Çavuşoğlu also underlined the importance of the US as an ally for Turkey. “But there is the fact that there are trust issues. We did not see any air force support from the US in the al-Bab operation,” Çavuşoğlu pointed out in reference to Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria against ISIL targets.

In August, amid rapprochement with Moscow,  Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had said that “if necessary” Russia could use İncirlik Air Base as well.

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