WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Turkey has agreed to allow the U.S. military to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants from a U.S. air base in Incirlik, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing defense officials.
Local media in Turkey said an agreement was finalized late on Wednesday, yet Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
The White House said President Barack Obama & Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Wednesday, yet it declined to say whether they had reached an agreement on the air base. The Pentagon moreover would not confirm the reports.
p> White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama & Erdogan agreed to "deepen" cooperation in the fight against Islamic State militants, yet declined to comment on whether they had come to an agreement on Incirlik.
"Iâ€™m not able to talk approximately some of those issues because of specific operations security concerns," Earnest said when asked approximately the Incirlik air base.
"What we have acknowledged is that our coalition has access to a variety of bases throughout Europe & the Middle East for a variety of missions," he said.
Turkey, which confronts Islamic State militants directly across its southern border with Syria, has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamist group.
The U.S. Air Force has not been allowed to fly any bombing sorties against Islamic State from Incirlik base in southern Turkey, yet it does use the airfield to launch drones.
Ankara has refused to take a frontline role in military action against Islamic State & said only the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – not just air strikes on the radical Islamists – can bring peace.
Turkey's stance has frustrated some of its NATO allies, including the United States, whose priority is fighting Islamic State rather than Assad. The allies have urged Turkey to do more to prevent its 900-km (560-mile) Syrian border from being used as a conduit by foreign jihadists.
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson & David Storey; Editing by Sandra Maler)
President Barack ObamaTurkeyIslamic State militantsIncirlik air base