Alwaght- Turkey threatened to deny the US access Incirlik Air Base in the country’s south amid reports that the United States blocks the sale of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets to Ankara.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday Incirlik Air Base, which is primarily used by American and Turkish forces, would be shut down if ties with the US reached a breaking point.
A US Senate committee last week passed its version of a $716 billion defense policy bill, including a measure to prevent Turkey from buying the Lockheed jets.
"As regards the F-35 jets, I have no concerns, this contract is legally binding, it cannot be easily terminated. But if these jets are not supplied to Turkey, we will satisfy our needs somewhere else," Cavusoglu said, as quoted by the NTV broadcaster.
NATO member Turkey has caused unease in Washington with its decision to buy S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia and drawn criticism over its detention of a US Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, on terrorism charges.
"There are no reasons why the US will not supply F-35s to us. We do not want to spoil relations with our US ally. The F-35 aircraft should be delivered to Turkey as planned. But in case of problems, Turkey will not be left without an alternative. It may buy [aircraft] both from Russia and from a NATO country. There is an agreement on F-35s, and if one side withdraws from it, the necessary steps will be taken," the minister added.
Secretary of the US Air Force Heather Wilson has said earlier that Washington is hopeful it can resolve some operational problems over Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system before sending F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Turkish Air Force.
Turkey has plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35 jets and last year the Pentagon last year awarded Lockheed $3.7 billion in an interim payment for the production of 50 of the aircraft earmarked for non-US customers, including Ankara.
Israeli paper Ha’aretz recently cited an unnamed military official as saying that Tel Aviv was lobbying with Washington to make it leave performance-enhancing software out of the jets it could deliver to Ankara.
Washington-Ankara ties have in recent years grown tense over Washington’s military support for anti-Ankara Kurdish militants in Syria.
The Turkish military invaded Syria in January after the US announced plans for a Kurdish militant force at the Turkish doorstep.
The invasion ousted US-backed Kurdish militants from the northern Syria region of Afrin. The military then began advancing towards the nearby region of Manbij, where American forces are also present, warning that the two sides could clash.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Turkish foreign minister said plans for a roadmap in Manbij might be implemented before the end of the summer if Turkey and the United States reached an agreement.
He said US and Turkish forces would control the Manbij region until a new administration was formed under the understanding reached with Washington.
Syria has denounced both the Turkish and American presence as “invasion,” calling on them to withdraw their forces from the Arab country.
A pro-Palestinian country, Turkey has also proven a strict opponent of the US's policy of unshakable support for Israel’s atrocities.