Erdogan could shut major base in Turkey housing US nuclear warheads following sanctions threat

Erdogan could shut major base in Turkey housing US nuclear warheads following sanctions threat
Turkey could shut down its Incirlik air base, which hosts US nuclear warheads if the US imposes sanctions over senate resolutions to recognise the Armenian genocide.
4 min read
16 December, 2019
The Turkish president has revealed that he could shut down two key US bases in the country following threats of sanctions after Senate resolutions were passed to recognise mass killings of Armenians almost a century ago as genocide.

Turkey could shut down its Incirlik air base, which hosts US nuclear warheads.

“If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course we have the authority…If this is necessary, together with our delegations, we will close down Incirlik if necessary,” president Tayyip Erdogan said on AlHaber TV on Sunday.

The president added that he may also close the Kurecik radar base if necessary, adding: “If they are threating us with the implementation of these sanctions, of course we will be retaliating.”

This is the latest in what is increasingly being seen as deteriorating relations between Ankara and the US, following the Senate’s decision in an unanimous vote last week to recognise the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman empire between 1915 and 1922.

The NATO ally has consistently denied there was no genocidal mass murder, insisting the Armenians died as a result of World War I.

The resolution passed after being blocked three times by three different Republican senators.

"It is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a co-author of the bill said: "It commemorates the truth of the Armenian genocide."

"I am thankful this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide," Menendez said, adding Armenians all over the world "will be able to see the Senate acknowledge what they went through."

The resolution, though not yet legally binding, provides “official recognition and remembrance” of the killing of 1.5 million Armenians, a claim that has long been opposed by Turkey.

Republican senator Ted Cruz, who also co-authored the bill, added: “This is the moment of truth that was far too long coming.

“From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire carried out a forced deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, of whom 1.5 were killed. We must never be silent in the face of atrocity.”

Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan called it “a victory of justice and truth,” adding:

On behalf of the Armenian people worldwide, I express our profound appreciation to the Senate for this landmark legislation,” he tweeted.

Turkish anger

Ankara condemned the move, and on Sunday Erdogan suggested that Turkey could also respond by passing parliamentary resolutions recognising the killings of indigenous Americans in the past centuries as genocide.

Turkey’s deputy foreign minister Sedat Onal met with US envoy David Satterfield to voice his strong criticism of the resolution, according to anonymous diplomatic sources speaking to Turkey's state-affiliated Anadolu agency.

The bills passed through the House of Representatives in October and was vehemently condemned at the time by Erdogan.

He said steps to consider the events as genocide “does not count for anything” and accused American lawmakers of acting “opportunistically” to pass the bill at a time criticism for Turkey reached a peak over its incursion into Syria.

Over the past few months US president Donald Trump has pushed to work with Turkey in an effort to prevent a Turkish invasion of northern Syria.

Trump has also struggled with NATO and Pentagon frustration with the Turkish leader over his decision to purchase a Russian-made S-400 missile defence system that could threaten NATO security.

Standing next to Trump at the White House in November, Erdogan warned that "some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations."

"This is what happens when the United States abandons principled diplomacy," said Brett McGurk, the former US special envoy to the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

"Trump's relationship with Erdogan has undercut any serious effort to nudge Turkey in a more constructive direction. As in most other areas of foreign policy at the moment, it's only getting worse."

Lawmakers challenged Trump to give his endorsement to the genocide resolution, even though it does not require his formal signature.

"The Congress is now united in speaking the truth about the genocide. It's time for the president to join us," said Adam Schiff, the Democrat who sponsored the measure in the lower house.

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