Turkey approves US use of air base against IS

Turkey approves US use of air base against IS
Turkey has given formal approval to the United States to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey for raids against Islamic State militants in Syria, an official said Wednesday.
3 min read
29 July, 2015
The US has pushed for use of the base in its campaign against IS [Anadolu]

The Turkish government has given its formal approval for the United States to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey for raids against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, a foreign ministry official said Wednesday.

"The cabinet has signed the decree," the official told AFP, without specifying when the authorisation was given.

"The (Incirlik) air base can be used (by the US against IS) anytime."

The accord came after months of tough negotiations between the two NATO allies that saw Washington grow increasingly frustrated over Turkey's reluctance to play a robust role in the international coalition against extremists.

The decree signed by the cabinet authorises the implementation of an agreement between Turkey and the United States on the base that was thrashed out during a visit to Ankara by US presidential envoy John Allen earlier this month.

The cabinet has agreed to "implement elements agreed between Turkey and the United States," said the official.

"The basis is there for the use of the facility," the official added.

The United States has long pushed for the use of the base in the campaign against IS extremists in Syria due its location relatively close to Syria just outside the Turkish city of Adana.

Turkey's failure to let US planes use the base for raids against IS in Syria had caused severe irritation in Washington.

But Ankara is now hardening its line against the group.

Syria 'doubts Turkey's intentions in anti-IS effort'

Syria's foreign ministry said Wednesday it was sceptical about Turkish efforts to fight the Islamic State group, in its first official reaction since Ankara began airstrikes against the extremists.

"It is better late than never, but are Turkish intentions to fight the terrorists of Daesh (IS), al-Nusra Front, and al-Qaeda-linked groups genuine?" the ministry asked in a letter to the United Nations.

The ministry said Syria "rejects the Turkish regime's attempt to paint itself as a victim that is defending itself", accusing Ankara of supporting "terrorist" groups.

The letter made no direct mention of Turkish air attacks in northern Syria.

Turkey launches heaviest airstrikes yet on PKK

The agreement also comes as Turkey takes military action against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, a move some analysts see as tacitly approved by Washington in exchange for the Incirlik deal.

Turkish war planes struck targets of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and in southeast Turkey overnight, in a new wave of air raids against the Kurdish militant group, the prime minister's office said Wednesday.

"Air operations were conducted throughout the night 28-29 July against the PKK terrorist group inside Turkey and outside," it said in a statement, listing six PKK locations in northern Iraq hit by the war planes.

It said shelters, depots, logistical bases and caves found to be used by the PKK were hit in the airstrikes.

The army has since Friday been carrying out daily airstrikes against targets of the PKK in northern Iraq, as well as Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) militants in Syria, in what the government calls a "war on terror" in response to a spate of attacks.

"The Turkish Republic will continue its rightful fight on legitimate grounds within the framework of national and international law, without succumbing to the threats of terrorist organisations," the statement added.

The prime minister's office added that a total number of 1,302 people had now been detained across the country in a total of 39 provinces in raids against suspected members of IS, the PKK and other militant groups.