US Department of State Spokesperson John Kirby refused to comment during Thursday’s daily press briefing on a German magazine’s claim that the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Hakan Fidan, the chief of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT), in order to collect information on a high level security meeting about the possible Turkish intervention in Syria to protect a Turkish enclave there last year.
When asked about a report by the Germany-based Focus magazine asserting the NSA tapped Fidan’s phone and therefore collected the audio from the meeting, Kirby said: “We’re not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence or disclosure activity. I just — I would refer you to the National Security Agency for anything more.”
Kirby was also asked to comment on this week’s meeting in Ankara between Turkish officials and a US delegation led by US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Gen. John Allen. In response to the question, Kirby said the US delegation and the Turks held a series of constructive meetings, in which the parties discussed their mutual efforts in the coalition against ISIL. He added, “I’m not going to detail all the various things that were discussed, but I think you can understand that — I mean, again, it was a pretty wide-ranging sets of discussions about all the different challenges we’re facing against ISIL.”
Kirby did not confirm or deny allegations that the Turkish government had agreed during the talks to allow its military air base in İncirlik, Adana, to be used by US drones to strike ISIL targets in Syria. “I’m in no position to confirm any kind of decision in that regard,” said the spokesman on the claim.
With regards to the differences between Turkey and the US on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Kirby stated that the US understands Turkish concerns, adding “It’s not something that we ignore. What our focus [is] on inside Syria is against ISIL. That’s the focus of the coalition effort. And I’d like to remind everybody that Turkey is a part of that coalition, not just a NATO ally but a part of that coalition, and they’re contributing to the effort.”
Kirby also pointed out Turkey’s “significant refugee problem” from Syria. Gen. Allen and US Department of Defense Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, along with a large delegation from the Pentagon, have been in Ankara this past week meeting with their Turkish counterparts, including Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu. The Turkish and US delegations had an eight-hour-long meeting on Tuesday and continued their discussions on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reported on Thursday that Ankara agreed to let US armed drones that are deployed at İncirlik Air Base be used against ISIL. Speaking to the A Haber TV channel in late June, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu talked about the presence of armed US drones at İncirlik, adding that the drones were being used for gathering intelligence and that it was natural that they were armed, given the threats in the region.
According to Cumhuriyet, Turkey and the US are close to a deal on using the base, but Ankara wants the US to support the Syrian opposition, especially around Aleppo, as a precondition to its assistance.
July 10, 2015, Friday/ 12:17:03/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM / ISTANBUL
© Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş. 2007