Turkish and Russian officials say Russian warplanes will not be sharing a critical hub for air operations in the Middle East with the U.S. Air Force, according to Air Force Times. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim raised the possibility of Russian aircraft using Incirlik air base during a press conference. The U.S. Defense Department and the White House have declined to comment on the reports.
“Incirlik is a Turkish air base and any foreign nation’s operations from there would need to be coordinated with the Turkish government,” Defense Department spokeswoman Laura Seal told Air Force Times in a statement. “We’ll decline to speculate on discussions between Turkey and Russia that may be taking place,” she said. The White House, too, referred questions on the matter to the Turkish government. Meanwhile, Yury Y. Melnik, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., said his country isn’t particularly interested in operating out of Turkey.
“There never was any substantive discussion about Russian AF using the base,” Melnik said in a statement to Air Force Times Wednesday. “An assessment by Russian military specialists was made to see if, in theory, such scenario had potential. They have come to a conclusion that it didn’t. The base is geographically inconvenient for Russian operations, and the maintenance facilities are NATO-oriented, hence incompatible with Russian-made aircraft.”
Yildirim made the comment during a press briefing Saturday, ahead of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey. In response to a reporter’s question, Yildirim said, “If necessary, the Incirlik base can be used (by the Russians),” according to Anadolu Agency, a state-run Turkish news agency.