The Turkish Defense Ministry on Wednesday released a statement that called Incirlik Air Base a “Turkish base” in an apparent response to US President Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide this past week.
Located north of the Turkish province of Adana, the base has long been jointly operated by the US and Turkey since the Cold War. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reports that defense officials in Turkey made this statement following a review conducted in response to Biden’s recognition of the genocide.
The Ministry statement stresses that certain facilities on the base are carried out according to a 1980 agreement between the US and Turkey. It also made it a point to say that the Turkish flag is “hoisted 24 hours a day and has never (come down).”
Threats to shut the US out of Incirlik have been commonly thrown about by Erdogan and his government over the years. After the US Congress passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide in December 2019, Erdogan threatened to close the base. Members of his government also made similar calls after the US sanctioned Turkey for acquiring the S-400 missile system from Russia one year later.
This latest statement did not include any threat to close the base, however.
Nationalists call on Erdogan to close Incirlik, activate S-400
Turkey’s nationalist politicians — who both support and oppose Erdogan — increased their calls to respond to the US over its shift in language regarding the Armenian Genocide.
Erdogan’s coalition partner Devlet Bahceli, leader of the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), described the relationship with the United States as “at a crossroads” at a meeting of his party on Tuesday. In response, Bahceli called on Erdogan’s government to activate the Russian S-400 missile system as one countermeasure.
“The first thing to do should be to make S-400s operational and collect the money we spent for the F-35 project. The government and the state have our full support in the steps that they will take regardless of the consequences,” Bahceli said.
Turkey first acquired the S-400 in July 2019 and test fired the system more than a year later, prompting US sanctions. The Biden administration has warned Turkey against future S-400 deliveries from Russia and urges it to abandon the system.
Ankara was also expelled from the F-35 fighter jet after the first S-400s were delivered. This was during the Trump administration, but Turkey was only officially notified of its full removal from the program this month.
Meral Aksener, a critic of Erdogan’s and leader of the nationalist Iyi Party, slammed the Turkish leader yesterday for failing to respond to Biden properly, in her view.
“The Turkish nation is waiting for a step from you,” Akşener said. “We were waiting for a move for the Kurecik and Incirlik bases. We were waiting for him to discuss security and cooperation projects.”
Kurecik is a radar base operated by the US Army near a town of the same name in southern Turkey.
Aksener, although an opponent of Erdogan’s, has been a frequent critic of US policy toward Turkey. She has in the past demanded Erdogan shutter both Kurecik and Incirlik in response to US opposition to Turkish military operations in Syria.