Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) presidential candidate said if he is elected on June 24 elections, he would shut down Incirlik Air Base and send the U.S. soldiers back home in next Christmas if the U.S. fails to extradite Fethullah Gulen who is accused by the Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed coup in 2016.
Muharrem Ince, a contender against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other candidates in the critical presidential contest, pledged to close down Incirlik Air Base for the U.S. forces if Washington fails to meet the Turkish demand on extradition of Gulen.
The U.S. aircraft has used Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey for air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. The base is of vital importance for the U.S. air operations across the region.
It provided a key, essential assistance to ground forces, mostly comprised of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, during the fight against ISIS.
Yet, his remarks also point to a fact that even President Erdogan who is unflinchingly persistent in his demand for Gulen’s extradition loses the election, the issue will not fade away and is likely to remain a thorn in the strained relations between two allies.
The cleric who has been living in Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile denies any link to the failed coup which killed more than 200 people and unleashed a sweeping purge by the government in the post-coup crackdown on political opponents.
President Erdogan holds Gulen and his movement as responsible for the abortive putsch. But the Turkish requests for Gulen’s extradition went nowhere as the U.S. authorities did not appear convinced by Turkish claims linking the cleric to the attempted coup.