Ankara has given Russia the go-ahead to use its Incirlik air base for operations in Syria, though no official request from Moscow to use the strategic military facility has been made, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.
The base, located some 100 kilometers from the Syrian border, is currently being used by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State to launch airstrikes against the jihadist group in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“Turkey opened Incirlik airbase to fight Daesh [Islamic State] terrorists. It is being used by the US and Qatar. Other nations might also wish to use the airbase, which the Germans are also now using,” Yildirim told reporters on Saturday according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
Asked if Moscow could share the airfield with coalition forces, Yildirim said that “If necessary, the Incirlik base can be used.”
Yildirim also denied news reports that Russia was demanding to use Incirlik for its military operations in Syria.
“I don’t think they have a need for Incirlik. Because they already have two bases in Syria,” he said.
The US has used Incirlik in the southern province of Adana as a highly convenient launch pad for bombing raids against Islamic State jihadists in Syria since 2015.
At the Saturday press conference, the prime minister also vowed that Turkey would play a “more active” role in international efforts in the coming months to solve the five-year Syrian civil war.
He said Syrian President Bashar Assad can remain temporarily in place during a transition period as “he is one of the actors today no matter whether we like it or not,” but stressed the embattled leader has no role to play in the country’s future.
Although Russia and Iran are Assad’s main allies,which puts them at loggerheads with Turkey, this month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin while Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came to Ankara for a meeting at which Syria was on the agenda.
“We believe that the PKK, Daesh and Assad should not be in the future of Syria,” Yildirim said, referring to the Syrian Kurds and the Islamic State jihadists operating in the war-torn country.
Yildirim said it was “out of the question” for Turkey to talk with the Syrian leader, and said regional countries Turkey and Iran as well as Russia and the US must work toward a solution in Syria.
“That is our objective. We are not pessimistic. We have even left it late. Therefore, as Turkey, we will work more because the instability there pains us.”
Turkey is on the frontline of fallout from the civil war, hosting over 2.7 million Syrian refugees at a cost of $12 billion (10.6 billion euros), Ankara says.
Agencies contributed to this report.