Balkans: October 30, 2004


Turkey has turned down another request, by the U.S. military, for greater access to bases in Turkey. The request was made in late September as a part of U.S. plans announced in August to realign its global forces deployment in Europe and Asia. The U.S. wanted to put at least two squadrons (around 48 F-16s) at Incirlik Air Base, currently serving as a hub for airlift operations to Afghanistan.

The Turkish military views the request as a potential infringement of the country's sovereignty. The U.S. had requested Turkey to permit the F-16s to conduct day and night low-altitude and supersonic flights and mid-air refueling during training exercises, activities that the Turkish air force is not allowed to do around the base. Earlier, Turkey had rejected a U.S. request for increased access to the Konya training range, saying that the U.S. has sought blanket approval for training exercises. Under a 1980 NATO agreement, the U.S. can bring in up to 48 aircraft to Incirlik for training purposes. 

Some of Turkey's reluctance may be due in part to the strong public outcry over the U.S. push for base access for use in Iraq operations. The U.S. had planned to bring troops through Turkey into Northern Iraq for a second front against Iraq but negotiations over basing rights and access fell apart. U.S. sources are still hopeful that Turkey will come up with a more positive response to the request for more planes at Incirlik after U.S. elections and if Turkey get a date from the European Union (with quiet U.S. support) to start talks to join the entity. Doug Mohney


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