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Turkey FM says no plans to allow Russia to use Incirlik airbase

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (photo by AFP)

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey has “no plans” to allow Russian jets to use the Incirlik airbase for airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, a day after implying otherwise.

Cavusoglu said on Monday that his earlier remarks, made in an interview with TRT television network, had been misinterpreted. In the TRT interview, Cavusoglu had said, “We will cooperate with everybody who is fighting Daesh."  

"Ankara has opened the Incirlik airbase to all those wishing to join the active fight… Why not cooperate with Russia in the same manner? Turkey is ready for such cooperation,” he said.

The Turkish foreign minister did not specify in the interview whether he was making an official offer, and whether it had been conveyed to Moscow.

Referring to the media representations of his comments, he said later on Monday, “That’s not what I said.”

“I said we were ready to cooperate with everyone in the fight against IS,” he said, using a different acronym for Daesh.

German Tornado jets are seen on the tarmac at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Incirlik Air Base lies eight kilometers (five miles) north of the Turkish city of Adana near the border with Syria, and currently hosts military aircraft from the US, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar.  

The US and Russia support opposing sides in the Syrian conflict and are at loggerheads over a series of other issues as well.

Turkey itself has had rocky relations with Russia ever since it shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in November 2015. Turkey said the jet violated its airspace, a claim that Russia refuted.

One of the two pilots of the Russian jet — both of whom parachuted out of the aircraft — was killed by militants on the ground in Syria. The other was rescued.

Russia demanded an apology. Turkey refused, which plunged their relations into an abyss.

Ankara and Moscow have, however, attempted to normalize their relations over the past week and Cavusoglu’s remarks implying that Russian jets might be allowed to use Incirlik were initially interpreted as part of those efforts.

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