May 17 2018

Turkish opposition candidate threatens to close U.S. airbase

Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for the upcoming Jun. 24 elections, took a tough line as he explained his foreign policy towards United States during an election rally in Çorum on Thursday, Yurt newspaper reported.

İnce promised to demand the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the head of the religious group accused of masterminding the coup attempt, who resides in the United States.

If Washington refuses the extradition request, İnce said he would force U.S. troops to leave İncirlik, an important U.S. airbase located in the south of Turkey.

İnce added that, in spite of the two countries’ longstanding alliance, Turkey would “do the necessary” if the United States continued its support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years and is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States.

The CHP candidate was referring to U.S. support for Syrian-Kurdish groups linked to the PKK, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have been in conflict with Turkey in northwest Syria.

İnce's speech also touched on diverse subjects including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's controversial relationship with the Turkish central bank, and reforms to Turkey's judicial system.

Erdoğan yesterday held a meeting with the head of the Central Bank at his Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters, a move which has been considered a symbol of Erdoğan’s desire to curb the Bank’s independence.

“They called the president of the Central Bank to the Justice and Development Party’s headquarters. This is shameful. How can you call the president of an independent institution to party headquarters. If you do that, European investors cannot trust you.” İnce said.

“Money looks for a safe haven. If they see that those issues are not handled properly in Turkey, that the head of the Central Bank follows instructions, the money escapes,” said the CHP’s presidential candidate.

İnce also promised to reform the judicial system in Turkey in order to ensure a return to rule of law within three months after he is elected as president.

Independent observers including the World Justice Project have been highly critical of the country’s rule of law in recent years, particularly under the ongoing state of emergency, ongoing since shortly after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.