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Turkey: Officials Question Allowing U.S. Access to Incirlik Air Base

An alleged lack of allied support for Turkey’s offensive in the Middle East has reportedly prompted officials in Ankara to reconsider American use of Incirlik Air Base for their bombing campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared that Turkey has the right to shut off international access to Incirlik Air Base, which is used to carry out U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish foreign minister told the state-run Anadolu Agency, “Our people ask, ‘why are they [coalition forces] using the İncirlik Airbase [if the coalition does not provide aerial support to the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria]? We allowed not only the U.S. but also other countries’ jets to use İncirlik to jointly fight [ISIL].”

“The U.S. is a very important ally for us. We have cooperation in every field. But there is the reality of a confidence crisis in the relationship at the moment,” he also noted.

“Turkey has the right to shut down Incirlik Air Base. We always have this right. But as I said, first the conditions should be evaluated. We have the right of disposition as part of Turkey’s sovereign right,” reiterated Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, reports the Daily Sabah.

The Turkish officials’ comments come after the United States provided a “visible show of force” without firing airstrikes in response to a request for military support from Turkey, a member of NATO and the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, when the Turkish air force came under fire in Syria.

Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have laid siege to al-Bab for weeks under the “Euphrates Shield” operation, launched months ago against both Sunni Muslim hardliners such as ISIS and U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters it considers terrorists from the border it shares with Syria.

Cavusoglu cited a number of reason for the “confidence crisis” that has emerged between the United States and Turkey, particularly claiming that the administration of President Barack Obama has not kept its promise regarding the retreat of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, Syria, to the east of the Euphrates River and has provided military support to the Syrian Kurdish group.

“Giving arms to the YPG, the U.S. chose a terrorist organization over its ally,” he said, adding that those weapons had later found their way into the hands of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.

Turkey considers the YPG, which is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls large swathes of northern Syria, to be a terrorist group affiliated with the PKK.

Although the U.S. has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, the White House does not believe the YPG is a terrorist affiliate of the communist group.

The U.S. and Turkey have found themselves on opposite sides of the ongoing Turkish military offensive near northern Syria.

Turkey has been backing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, who have received military assistance from America but have been recently fighting against the U.S.-allied YPG, ISIS, and forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Echoing Cavusoglu’s frustration, the Turkish presidential spokesman said the United States had not done enough to support the FSA, reports the Daily Sabah.

Kalin, the presidential spokesman, also suggested that the Obama administration’s failure to properly arm the FSA allowed Assad’s forces to retake the rebel-held portion of Aleppo late last year, Assad’s biggest strategic victory that could prove a turning point in the long-running civil war.

Citing an anonymous senior administration official last year, The Washington Post reported,“The CIA and [U.S. military] have said that the fall of Aleppo [to Russian-backed Assad troops] would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

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