Once pro-NATO, Akşener urges gov't to shut down İncirlik

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published

İyi Party (Good Party) Chairwoman Meral Akşener, who came out as a pro-NATO figure at the founding of her party, has changed course as she recently called for the closure of the Kürecik Base used by NATO and İncirlik Air Base used by the United States.

Addressing a crowd in Kastamonu province, Akşener called on the government to shut down İncirlik to the U.S. "If we are foes with the U.S. then why don't you shut down Kürecik and İncirlik?" she said, directing her question at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Even though Akşener positioned herself openly against NATO in her remarks, she used different rhetoric when the Good Party was first founded. The party's first program stressed that NATO serves as the broadest umbrella in Turkey's defense system.

"Turkey had its place among Western institutions in the world order established after World War II. Our countries' defense policy is integrated into the Western security system … Being a political body, NATO meets its members' joint defense needs. As being under the umbrella of NATO does not prevent Turkey from implementing national policies and strategies, our membership in the alliance is not against relations and cooperation efforts with countries in other alliances and mechanisms as part of the needs of our national interests and security," the party program said regarding Turkey's ties with NATO.

Located outside the city of Adana, some 150 kilometers from the Syrian border, İncirlik Air Base is jointly used by the U.S. and Turkish Air Force. Since November 2011, the U.S. air force has been flying unarmed drones out of İncirlik. The U.S.-led coalition against Daesh has also launched airstrikes from the air base since July 2015.

The air base, inaugurated in 1954, was shut down to the U.S. after Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey in the 1970s. Ankara handed control of the air base to the Turkish military at the time. After the sanctions were lifted in September 1978, activities at the air base returned to normal.

The Kürecik Base is home to a NATO radar system that was designed to intercept rocket attacks. It is located in Malatya province.

In the past, Akşener has been attacked for allegedly having close ties with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). In December 2015, Bahçeli claimed that FETÖ was using one of the party's candidates as a political tool. Akşener's lawyer, Nuri Polat, was among 30 suspects arrested earlier in April for alleged links to the group.

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