Turkey could shut down its Incirlik airbase that hosts US nuclear warheads in response to threats of US sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned.
“If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course, we have the authority… We will close down Incirlik if necessary,” Erdogan said on A Haber TV on Sunday.
US senators backed legislation last week to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system earlier this year and its recent military operation in northern Syria.
Incirlik is a key airbase used by the Turkish Air Force located outside the city of Adana, about 150km from the Syrian border. Since November 2011, the US air force has flown drones from the base and has used it to carry out air raids against the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
The United States stores nuclear weapons at Incirlik as part of the legacy of the Cold War.
Turkey can also close down the Kurecik radar base if necessary, he added. Kurecik, in eastern Turkey, is a key NATO base.
“If they are threatening us with the implementation of these sanctions, of course, we will be retaliating,” he said.
Speaking about a separate resolution passed in the US Senate on Friday recognising the mass killings of Armenians at the end of the first world war as “genocide”, Erdogan said the bill was “completely political”.
He suggested Turkey may respond with parliamentary resolutions recognising the killings of Indigenous Americans in past centuries as genocide.
The US Senate votes, which were immediately condemned by Turkey, were seen as the latest move to push US President Donald Trump to take a harder line against Ankara.
The Trump administration has so far not imposed sanctions despite the president in 2017 signing a sanctions law that mandates financial penalties for countries that do business with Russia’s military.
Amid already strained bilateral ties, Washington suspended Ankara from the US F-35 stealth fighter jet programme, in which it was a producer and buyer, to penalise it for buying the Russian missile system.
Speaking at a conference in Qatar on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would not cancel its deal with Russia over the S-400s “whatever the consequences”.