A member of Russia’s upper house of parliament has reportedly suggested that Turkey could provide its Incirlik air base for Russian Air Forces jets in their campaign across the border in Syria, according to press reports.
“Turkey could provide the Incirlik base to the Russian Aerospace Forces for its use in counterterrorism operations [in Syria]. This could become a logical continuation of Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s step toward Russia,” Senator Viktor Ozerov, member of the Russian Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti on Aug. 16. According to Russian news agencies, Ozerov did not rule out that Ankara could offer the use of its air base after Erdoğan’s reconciliatory visit to St. Petersburg last week, where he affirmed support for Russia’s anti-terrorist mission in Syria.
“It is not guaranteed that Russia needs İncirlik, but such a decision could be regarded as Turkey’s real readiness to cooperate with Russia in the fight against terrorism in Syria, and not just pay lip service,” Ozerov was also quoted as saying. Turkey opened its İncirlik base to the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition in July 2015 after a bilateral agreement was signed among both parties. Ozerov also clarified that the decision could be taken based on similar agreements made with Syria on the use of the Hmeymim facility and the latest use of the Hamadan airfield in western Iran to carry out airstrikes in Syria, the Russian news website Sputnik reported on Aug. 16.
The Russian senator’s remarks came just days after Turkey called on Moscow to carry out joint operations against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, following crucial talks between President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan aimed at ending a diplomatic crisis.
Erdoğan visited Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg on Aug. 9, in his first trip abroad since the July 15 coup attempt. It was also his first direct meeting with Putin since the shooting-down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish air forces on the Syrian border in late November that caused unprecedented damage to relations.
NATO member Turkey was long criticized by its Western partners for not playing a full role in the fight against ISIL. Yet Turkey upped its involvement last summer by offering U.S. forces use of its Incirlik air base for raids against the group.