İncirlik airbase for anti-ISIL coalition to be part of a single package: Turkish FM

İncirlik airbase for anti-ISIL coalition to be part of a single package: Turkish FM

İncirlik airbase for anti-ISIL coalition to be part of a single package: Turkish FM

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu speaks while returning from his official trip to Greece. Hürriyet Photo

The opening of a key military base in southern Turkey has just begun to be discussed between Ankara and Washington as part of a package of measures to be taken against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said.

“The framework [of cooperation with the U.S.] comprises air support and we have only recently begun to discuss whether it will include the use of İncirlik,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the discussion of opening the base in the southern province of Adana had “just begun.”

“They all will be a package. We are slowly moving toward that stage. The details will be negotiated after the framework is determined. We have decided to speed things up with the United States,” he said, answering reporters’ questions aboard his plane while returning from Greece on Dec. 12.

“We are trying to set up a framework about what can be done on the ground and for the train-equip program. Security and intelligence officials will start to talk concerning what will happen,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) members, including Syrian Turkmens, are reportedly planned to be trained at the Hirfanlı gendarmerie training center in the Central Anatolian province of Kırşehir, as the U.S. and Turkey agree on the necessity of supporting moderate Syrian rebels to fight against ISIL and Syrian regime forces in the country.

Turkey has been pressuring for a solution made up of a ground operation of Syrian rebels backed by airstrikes and a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, which has been one of the greatest sources of disagreement between Ankara and Washington.

Speaking about the views of Western countries regarding the no-fly zone or safe zone idea, Çavuşoğlu said “Britain is confused, France is supportive, and the United States has different ideas.”

Recalling that ISIL has swept to control 35 percent of Iraqi and Syrian territory, he reiterated that Ankara sees a ground operation as a must for success in defeating the jihadists.

“When airstrikes don’t stop ISIL, a ground operation is needed,” the foreign minister said, also criticizing Western countries for using the excuse of public sensitivities for their reluctance toward a ground operation.

He said that when the tension in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane flared up, Western countries told Turkey to enter the town, but Ankara responded by saying it has “public sensitivity as well.”

“The Democratic Union Party [PYD] doesn’t want Turkey to enter there [Kobane], because they want to divide and manage the area [Syria],” he added.

Meanwhile, speaking in a separate, televised interview on Dec. 13, Çavuşoğlu responded to the suggestions that Turkey had been left alone in the recent U.N. Security Council elections.

“One is only left alone if the entire U.N. isolated you. But Turkey leads chairmanship of the most important initiatives in the U.N.,” he stated.

Turkey’s principled stance on the issue of Egypt leads to such an impression of isolated, Çavuşoğlu adding, while noting, “I prefer this kind of principled loneliness.”