Turkish president confirms US use of İncirlik base
ISTANBUL / ANKARA
AA photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey has agreed to let the U.S. use the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey for military operations against militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), “within a certain framework.”
“They will also be used within a certain framework,” Erdoğan told reporters on July 24, when asked about reports suggesting that Turkey has agreed to let the U.S. military launch airstrikes against ISIL, giving a boost to the U.S.-led coalition while drawing Turkey deeper into the conflict.
President Barack Obama and Erdoğan finalized the deal in a phone call on July 23, U.S. officials said earlier, following months of U.S. appeals and delicate negotiations over the use of İncirlik and other bases in Turkey.
Frustrated by Obama’s focus on fighting ISIL instead of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s government had resisted the move, but in recent days a surge in ISIL activity in Turkey has brought concerns about the militant group to the forefront.
U.S. officials said access to the base in southern Turkey, not far from ISIL strongholds across the border in Syria, would allow the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly against ISIL targets. If the agreement holds, the U.S.-led coalition will be positioned to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act quicker on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from placed like Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states.
Just hours before Erdoğan’s statement delivered in Istanbul, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters in Ankara that more intensive coordination with allied nations will continue.
Davutoğlu, meanwhile, underlined that negotiations with U.S. on İncirlik air base are separate from current security operations against ISIL and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in which nearly 300 suspects have been detained.
“Even if yesterday’s attack didn’t happen, we would still be holding negotiations with the U.S. within the framework of ‘train-equip, safe zone, Daesh.’ Steps needed to be taken would be taken anyway,” he said, noting that Turkey informed ally countries of its operation against ISIL targets in Syria.
“Concrete steps will be taken in the coming days,” he added, without elaborating.