Tensions between the United States and Turkey could be increasing once again, as Ankara threatens to revoke access to a vital air base if Washington follows through with the threat of sanctions.
Turkey is now firing back after US senators showed support for legislation that would hit Washington’s NATO ally with sanctions over its recent military offensive in Syria, and its purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system.
In an interview, Turkish President Erdogan threatened to cut off Washington’s access to one of Turkey’s most vital air bases, saying it would be justified if the US moves forward with sanctions.
“If it needs to be closed, we’ll close Incirlik. If it needs to be closed, we’ll close Kurecik. The whole issue is, in the event measures like sanctions against us are carried out, we will respond in the necessary way within the framework of reciprocity,” Erdogan said.
The air base Erdogan is referring to has been used recently by the US for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and it currently hosts around 5,000 American troops and 50 of Washington’s nuclear bombs.
In response to the warning that Turkey could cut off access to the US, Defense Secretary Mark Esper questioned whether the NATO member would be acting in the best interest of the alliance.
“I think the issue here is, is once again, what is Turkey’s direction with regard to the NATO alliance and the actions are taking on any number of issues that I’ve mentioned in the past, whether it’s the S-400,” Esper said.
Turkey’s warning comes in response to legislation in the US that could hit Ankara with a new round of sanctions. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18 to 4 to support a bill that includes measures condemning their NATO ally.
Although the bill has yet to be signed into law, the House of Representatives passed its own version of legislation to enact sanctions against Turkey back in October. It specifically cited Ankara’s attempted military offensive into north-eastern Syria, targeting Kurdish forces.
While Turkey labels the Kurds as a terrorist group, they have been one of Washington’s main allies in the fight against ISIS, and members of Congress have argued that they deserve full support from the US, despite the war never receiving congressional approval to begin with.
Despite the fact that negotiations with Russia led to Turkey’s decisions to pull back its military offensive in Syria, those ties between Ankara and Moscow have also received complaints from the US after Turkey followed through on plans to purchase the Russian S-400 defense system earlier this year.
Despite repeated threats from US officials that Turkey should not buy—and now should not use the S-400, Turkey has yet to fully comply with Washington’s wishes.
The State Department said today that the White House has no plans to recognize the Armenian Genocide despite resolutions passing in both the House and Senate.
Last month, the House passed a resolution to recognize the killing of more than 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire more than 100 years ago as genocide. While the Senate passed its own version with a unanimous vote last week, Trump has refrained from showing support.
Turkey has been vocal in its criticism of this move, and Erdogan is now threatening to respond by recognizing the killing of Native Americans by European settlers as genocide, calling it “a shameful moment in US history.”