Turkish media on Wednesday cited a US Department of Defense official as denying comments made last week by a senior Republican senator indicating that Washington is exploring the option of developing the US presence at a base on the Greek island of Crete as part of preparations to withdraw from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Force base.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen to Incirlik,” Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee for Europe, told the Washington Examiner last Friday, saying that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “disturbing” foreign policy has spurred efforts to plan for a relocation.
“We want to maintain our full presence and cooperation in Turkey. I don’t think we want to make that strategic shift, but I think, from a defensive posture, I think we have to look at the reality of the situation that the path that Erdogan is on is not good,” Johnson said.
“It’s very concerning, which is one of the reasons we certainly are increasing and improving our military cooperation with Greece ... beefing up our presence in Souda Bay, because our presence, quite honestly, in Turkey is certainly threatened,” Johnson added, referring to the NATO base on the Greek island.
Responding to the comments on Tuesday, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell as saying that the US “has no plans to end our presence at Incirlik Air Base.”
“The US has operated at Incirlik Air Base for decades at the invitation of the Turkish government, and our continued presence there demonstrates the ongoing and strong relationship between the United States and our NATO ally Turkey,” AA reported Campbell as saying in an email exchange.