US Defence Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Dec. 16 that he would need to speak with his Turkish defence counterparts in order to determine the gravity of recent remarks in Turkey regarding the possible closure of US and NATO bases, APA reports citing Sputnik.
"I need to talk to my defence counterpart to understand what they really mean and how serious they are", Esper told reporters as per a transcript posted by the Defence Department.
The defence secretary went on to say that he would need to discuss with NATO allies the possibility of Turkey shutting down the Kurelik radar system, which is owned and operated by the alliance. At the same time, Esper refused to answer questions about nuclear weapons at the US airbase Incirlik.
Esper acknowledged Turkey's right to host and to refuse strategic foreign military presence in the country.
"This is something that the alliance would have to discuss if the Turks are serious about this. I mean, they're a sovereign nation to begin with so, you know, they have that inherent right to house or to not house NATO bases or foreign troops", Esper said while on the trip back from a visit to Europe.