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Erdogan: Turkey may close Incirlik, Kurecik bases 'if necessary'

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The Turkish president on Sunday said Ankara may close two bases in Turkey where U.S. soldiers are stationed "if necessary".

"When necessary, we will discuss with all our delegations, and if necessary, we may close Incirlik [air base in southern Adana province] and Kurecik [radar station in eastern Malatya province]," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised interview.

Speaking about a resolution passed in the U.S. Senate on Armenian allegations over the events of 1915, Erdogan said the bill was "completely political", adding: "It is very important for both sides that the U.S. does not take irreparable steps in our relations."

"We regret that the polarization in U.S. domestic politics has had negative consequences for us and that some groups abuse developments about our country for their own interests in order to weaken [President Donald] Trump," Erdogan added. 

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution recognizing Armenian claims on the events that transpired in 1915.

Turkey's position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to examine the issue.  

Drilling in Eastern Mediterranean  

Stressing that there are significant hydrocarbon reserves beneath the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said Turkey may work in the region with companies that are "strong in the international community". 

Noting that a security and military cooperation deal with the Libyan UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) would go into affect after ratification in the Turkish parliament, he underlined that with the deal, both Turkey's and Libya's rights would be protected and that Turkey would not allow any unilateral steps to be taken.

"If the Libyan government requests military support, Turkey will make its decision," said Erdogan, reiterating that Turkey is "ready to provide all kinds of support to Libya". 

"We may take the necessary steps within international law," he added.

On Nov. 7, Ankara and Tripoli-based Libyan government reached two separate memorandums of understanding (MoU), one on military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The earlier memorandum on maritime boundaries asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8. 

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area. 

Since spring this year, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) to the resources of the region.  

Turkey’s first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, bought from Norway in 2013, has been conducting exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.  

Athens and Greek Cypriots have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting EU leaders to join their criticism.    

Turkey’s counter-terrorism operation in northern Syria  

Erdogan said Turkey's goal with its anti-terrorism operation in northern Syria was to maintain peace for Syrians, not to "seize its oil".  

"Neither the U.S. nor Russia could eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists there [from northern Syria] as they promised. So, we have to do it," Erdogan added.  

He stressed that the fight against PKK terrorists should be carried out jointly and as was against Daesh/ISIS terrorists. 

During the interview, Erdogan also said he would on Monday speak over the phone with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

On Oct. 9, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northern Syria, east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.  

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.    

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