Turkish military denies presence of US troops in Diyarbakır

October 31, 2012, Wednesday/ 23:44:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The Turkish military has denied media reports suggesting that a group of US army officials paid a visit to the Diyarbakır Airbase, the closest NATO military base to the Syrian border.

Turkish media outlets reported that 20 US military officials went to the Diyarbakır Airbase from an Ankara military base via a Turkish military plane. The objective of the visit was to discuss possible military cooperation with regard to the worsening Syrian conflict, which raises concerns of a regional conflagration, media reports said.

The US military delegation allegedly inspected the airbase for two days to examine its current readiness for any possible future military action.

The reports said that when the US military delegation arrived to the base, a Turkish aircraft was deployed on a reconnaissance mission over the porous Syrian border, which has become the scene of exchanges of artillery fire between the Turkish and Syrian militaries, stoking fears of a further escalation.

However, US military officials did not take part in the mission, reports said.

The Turkish military strongly denied the media reports for the third time since the emergence three weeks ago of allegations of an American military presence in Turkey to deal with the escalating Syrian conflict.

A statement released on the website of the Turkish General Staff dismissed the claims, saying that there were no US military officials at the Diyarbakır Airbase and that no such inspection had taken place.

Recently, the Turkish military and the minister of defense quickly denied any US military presence in Turkey after top US commanders said military personnel had been sent to Turkey to assist in handling the spillover of the Syrian crisis and the fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

“There are no US military personnel or units deployed in Turkey with regard to the developments in Syria,” a statement from the General Staff said on Saturday. It said US military personnel are based at an airbase in İncirlik, in Adana province, under a 1980 agreement with the US on defense and economic cooperation; in Kürecik, Malatya, to operate a US radar deployed in Turkey as part of a NATO missile defense system under an agreement dated Sept. 14, 2011; and finally at the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) that operates under the US Embassy in Ankara.

Turkish diplomatic sources earlier also denied any US troop presence in Turkey, saying Turkish-US cooperation on Syria is limited to closed-door meetings that involve military officials and diplomats of the two countries who meet as part of a mechanism announced during a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Ankara in August.

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