The use of İncirlik depends on results of train-equip program: Turkish minister
Uğur Ergan HELSİNKİ
İncirlik air base in the southern province of Adana is seen this file photo.The use of regionally strategic İncirlik Air Base as part of the international campaign against the extremist jihadists in Syria depends on the results yielded by the recently signed train-and-equip program, a senior Turkish government official has said.
Turkey and the U.S. signed Feb. 19 a memorandum for a joint program of training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels to better combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Bashar al-Assad regime troops. Turkey’s evacuation of its troops protecting a historic tomb inside Syria has sparked comments that Turkey would pledge more support to the anti-ISIL coalition and allow it to use its bases, particularly İncirlik.
“The Şah Fırat operation is an individual incident, although it seems relevant to these things. DAESH [the Arabic acronym for ISIL] was born because of incorrect policies implemented by Iraq’s former prime minister and the al-Assad regime also backed this organization. If we do not stop these, the capability of those who benefit from the train and equip program in the struggle will be reduced,” EU Minister Volkan Bozkır told a group of reporters traveling with him to Finland yesterday.
Bozkır reiterated Turkey’s demand to establish a secure zone for Syrian immigrants, as well as the moderate troops who undertake the train and equip program, and recalled the formation of a no-fly zone for the protection of that particular area inside Syria. “The use of İncirlik alone or as part of the international campaign depends on obtaining these results,” he said.
Turkey and the U.S. have long been discussing the former’s more active involvement in the military campaign against ISIL, but the Turkish government differs from Washington in that ISIL is the main priority in Syria. Turkey says al-Assad is the main source of unrest in Syria and therefore should be toppled immediately for permanent stability in the region.
“The army is being restructured in Iraq. Recovering Mosul [from ISIL] will be important. DAESH has begun to be accepted as a successful terrorist organization through its seizure of Mosul. Therefore taking control of Mosul will be important for breaking this perception,” Bozkır said.
Turkey prefers the people, not dictators
On criticisms that Turkish policies concerning Egypt and Libya cost Turkish interests, as trade ways have nearly been closed, Bozkır responded: “We can’t ignore the preferences of the people just to protect our interests. The Egyptian people are important to us. Turkey’s current policies will constitute the foundation of long-term friendships and inter-state cooperation.”
When the Syrian unrest is terminated, the Syrian people will “thank Turkey for standing with them,” Bozkır said.
History will judge policies
On a question as to whether Turkey has done everything right throughout the Arab Spring and particularly during the Syrian crisis, Bozkır said the policies being implemented will be judged by history.
“This policy is being implemented. I do not think it’s wrong. Turkey did not have a different attitude toward each of these countries [during the Arab Spring]. Dictators have been toppled and the chance should be given to replace them with the people’s will,” he said. “Turkey has always been on the side of the people’s will in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.”