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Turkish-NATO Relations Under Strain Over Gulen Extradition Request

© AP Photo / Chris PostIslamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Saylorsburg, Pa.
Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Saylorsburg, Pa. - Sputnik International
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Relations between Turkey and NATO are becoming increasingly strained, following the attempted military coup in July, however, NATO will continue to deal with Turkey for strategic military reasons, Sputnik has been told.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed the failed coup on the US and the 75-year-old US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey wants to extradite. It is understood the Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag is expected to go to Washington to negotiate the extradition of Gülen. Bozdag has said the US is well aware Gülen is behind the attempted coup.

Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Saylorsburg, Pa. Turkish officials have blamed a failed coup attempt on Gulen, who denies the accusation. - Sputnik International
Turkey Hopes US to Fulfill Ankara's Request for Extradition of Cleric Gulen

The move will put further strain over Turkish-NATO relations. Turkey has been a member of the alliance since 1952 and NATO relies strongly on its military, as well as airbases — particularly Incirlik. In southern Turkey, which has a massive NATO presence and is critical to Middle East operations.

Mehmet Ugur, Professor of Economics and Institutions at the Greenwich Political Economy Research Center told Sputnik:

"[Turkey] is very important — strategically — and you can understand why. More than one third of the nuclear warheads [of NATO] are stored in Incirlik. Turkey has got the [second] largest army [in NATO]."

© AFP 2021 / STRA military aircraft is pictured on the runway at Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey
A military aircraft is pictured on the runway at Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey - Sputnik International
A military aircraft is pictured on the runway at Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey

"Turkey is a partner in the fight against Daesh, (also known as ISIL). NATO doesn't have a viable alternative for Turkey at the moment. I think Erdogan will want to maintain [links with NATO] as it pays off for Turkey. But I think the other factor here that there are some sections within the US administration and the security and defense establishment which want to maintain strong links with Turkey," Professor Ugur told Sputnik.

"They want to give sweeteners, even during this period of repression, ruling by decrees and ruling by mobs, to see that NATO connections continue. NATO will stick with Turkey, but this will tarnish the claim by NATO that it is a collection of nations ruled by democracy and rule of law."

Gulen Extradition

Gulen, the inspiration behind the Gulen movement, initially supported Erdogan ahead of him becoming elected in 2014. However, the two fell out over a massive corruption scandal in 2013 that cost the country US$100billion. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind the corruption investigations.

© AP Photo / Selahattin Sevi, FileFILE – In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, sits at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States.
FILE – In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, sits at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States. - Sputnik International
FILE – In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, sits at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States.

Gulen is currently on Turkey's most-wanted-terrorist list, accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which Erdogan believes staged the failed coup.

The questions to be asked over the coming weeks, is how will the US react to the requested extradition of Gulen and how NATO will save face — and its strategic requirement for Turkish assets — as the reaction to the failed coup unfolds.

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