NATO Member Erdogan Threatens to Shut Major Base in Turkey Housing U.S. Nukes

Statement comes in response to threats of U.S. sanctions and a separate U.S. Senate resolution that recognized mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide

Trump and Erdogan pose for a photo during the NATO summit, London, December 4, 2019.
Peter Nicholls/ REUTERS

Turkey could shut down its Incirlik air base, which hosts U.S. nuclear warheads, in response to threats of U.S. sanctions and a separate U.S. Senate resolution that recognized mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

"If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course we have the authority... If this is necessary, together with our delegations, we will close down Incirlik if necessary," Erdogan said on A Haber TV.

>> Read more: U.S. recognition of Armenian Genocide is a slap in the face for Turkey, Trump and Israel

Turkey can also close down the Kurecik radar base if necessary, he added. "If they are threatening us with the implementation of these sanctions, of course we will be retaliating," he said.

Turkey condemned the U.S. Senate measure last week. Erdogan suggested on Sunday that Turkey could also respond with parliamentary resolutions recognizing the killings of indigenous Americans in past centuries as genocide.

A U.S. Senate committee backed legislation on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Turkey after its offensive in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system, the latest move in the chamber to push U.S. President Donald Trump to take a harder line against Ankara.

After the two resolutions passed the U.S. House of Representatives in October, Turkey's foreign ministry said that it summoned U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield.

The Turkish ministry said in a statement that it rejects the nonbinding House resolution to recognize the century-old mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. The bill passed 405-11.

In another statement, the ministry said it condemned a bipartisan bill to sanction senior Turkish officials and its army for Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, which passed 403-16.

Both bills, and their passage in the Senate, were a sign of further deterioration in Turkish-American relations, which have been strained over multiple issues, especially U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish fighters considered terrorists by Ankara.

American lawmakers have been critical of Ankara’s operation against Kurdish forces along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The foreign ministry said both bills were fashioned for “domestic consumption” in the U.S. and would undermine relations. It said lawmakers critical of Turkey’s Syria offensive would be wrong to take “vengeance” through the Armenian genocide bill.

Turkey disputes the description of mass deportations and killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as genocide and has lobbied against its recognition in the United States for years. It has instead called for a joint committee of historians to investigate the events.

“Undoubtedly, this resolution will negatively affect the image of the U.S. before the public opinion of Turkey,” the ministry said.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.