Kılıçdaroğlu challenges gov’t to bar US use of İncirlik air base over NATO row

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Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to bar the US from using an air base in southern Turkey to show their “sincerity” in opposing Finland and Sweden’s recent bids to join NATO.

The CHP leader on Thursday said in a series of tweets that the CHP would support a motion by the AKP and MHP to “close down military bases used by the US” in Turkey, which would reveal whether they were sincere in their opposition to the Nordic nations’ membership in the alliance.

İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, where US troops are deployed, is the only base in Turkey used by the United States.

“The US filled Greece with bases. Their goals are clear. If they [AKP and MHP] bring [a motion to] close the US military facilities in Turkey to parliament, we’ll support it. … We are as against foreign soldiers on our land as we are against neoliberalism. We are ready to do whatever is necessary. So, to those in power, are you [also] ready [to do it]?” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The opposition leader’s call comes after MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli on Tuesday said that even leaving NATO should be considered as an option by Ankara “if the situation [regarding Finland and Sweden’s bids to join the alliance] becomes too complicated to deal with.”

“Turkey isn’t helpless. Even leaving NATO should be considered as an alternative if the situation becomes too complicated to deal with. … If Turkey’s objections aren’t taken seriously, it means that its presence in NATO isn’t taken seriously,” Bahçeli said on Tuesday during his party’s group meeting.

The MHP leader also suggested establishing a new security organization in which Turkey, the Turkic world and 57 Islamic countries would participate, “if the developments don’t leave any other option.”

Finland and Sweden on May 18 applied to join NATO as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced a dramatic reappraisal of security in Europe.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has threatened to block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO, last week urged the alliance’s members to “respect” Ankara’s concerns about the two countries, which Turkey accuses of harboring terrorists.

Erdoğan accused Stockholm of providing safe haven to members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, and followers of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Sweden has also imposed embargoes on arms sales to Turkey since 2019 over Ankara’s invasion of Syria.

Following talks with Swedish and Finnish officials Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Turkey would not agree to the two Nordic countries joining NATO unless specific steps are taken to address Ankara’s objections.

“We have made it very clear that if Turkey’s security concerns are not met with concrete steps in a certain timeframe, the process will not progress,” Kalın told a news conference after talks in Ankara that lasted about five hours.

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