Turkey has denied claims that it has signed an agreement authorising the US and the coalition forces to use its airbases for operations against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.
Speaking on NBC News‘ ‘Meet The Press’ show on 12 October, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice claimed that Turkey had agreed to allow the use of Incirlik airbase for the bombing campaign against IS, and to train moderate Syrian rebels on its soil.
However, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic told Reuters: "There is not an agreement, no decision has been taken with regards to using Incirlik air base.
"Many issues are pending and many issues are being discussed between the US and Turkey, this includes the creation of a safe zone and creation of a no-fly zone as well."
Bilgic noted that the possible use of Incirlik air base was still ‘on the agenda’.
Undisclosed sources from the Turkish Prime Minister’s office have confirmed that the country has signed an agreement with the US to train Syrian rebels, but refused to share further details, including the training location.
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Located in southern Turkey, Incirlik air base is currently being used by the US for reconnaissance flights over Iraqi airspace, as part of an agreement signed in 2007, Hürriyet Daily News reported.
However, Turkey has insisted that it would open up its bases to the anti-IS coalition only on the creation of a no-fly zone in northern Syria, near its border. This would create a safe zone for training and arming of moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The US has long wanted access to the Turkish bases, and the country itself to actively participate in the fight against IS, which currently controls a large area of both Syria and Iraq, and is also advancing on the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobane near Turkey’s border.
The coalition forces’ bombing aircraft are currently flying out of al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE, Ali al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait, and al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Supported by Saudi Arabia, the latest US airstrikes destroyed IS units, staging locations, a heavy machine gun firing position, and an IS garrison in the Syrian cities of Raqqah and Kobane.