Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base

Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to the Naval Support Activity base at Souda Bay, Crete, Greece, September 29, 2020. (AP Photo)
Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base
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A service vehicle displaying American and Turkish flags at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (Reuters)
Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base
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The U.S. Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (T-ESB-4) at anchor in Chesapeake Bay, 15 Sept., 2019, during mine countermeasure equipment testing. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base

Uncertainty deepens over US presence at Incirlik air base
  • Pompeo’s second visit to Greece seen as shift away from Turkey
  • Greek PM: Erdogan’s ‘unnecessarily extreme rhetoric’ is stoking tensions

NEW YORK: Expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams has found a new home in Souda Bay in the Greek island of Crete, where it will be based.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed in Athens plans to relocate key US military assets from Incirlik air base in Turkey to Greece. 




The U.S. Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (T-ESB-4) at anchor in Chesapeake Bay, 15 Sept., 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Adding to the growing uncertainty about the future of the US presence at Incirlik, Ron Jonson, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee for Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, said: “We don’t know what will happen to Incirlik. We hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst.”

The American-Turkish relationship soured when Ankara announced plans to purchase the sophisticated Russian S-400 defense system despite vehement objections from the US and other NATO allies.

Pompeo’s visit comes as an energy dispute in the eastern Mediterranean continues to rage between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on multiple occasions threatened to kick the US out of Incirlik.

Pompeo’s visit signals the US resolve to reduce its dependence on Turkey. He hailed Greece as a “pillar for stability and prosperity,” and said the country has become one of the strongest US military partners in Europe.




A service vehicle displaying American and Turkish flags at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (Reuters)

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the American expeditionary ship is “symbolic of a defense partnership that will continue to expand and to grow.” He said Erdogan’s “unnecessarily extreme rhetoric” is stoking tensions.

Greece and the US are together “guarantors of stability,” Mitsotakis said, adding that his country is ready for further American investments. “The sky is the limit regarding what we can achieve together.”  


Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
Updated 15 January 2021

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
  • Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine
  • There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised

BERLIN: A global coronavirus vaccine rollout suffered a major blow Friday as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.
But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunize their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.
Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay.
It urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.
Six northern EU nations also warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
The letter signed by ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden further asked the Commission to “demand a public explanation of the situation” from the pharmaceutical companies.
Across the Atlantic, Canada also said it was impacted by the delays, calling it “unfortunate.”
“However, such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” said Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go ahead.
After Britain rolled out its immunization drive, the EU followed from December 27.
The latest shipment delay will likely add fuel to anger over the bloc’s vaccination campaign, which has already been criticized for being too slow compared to the United States or former EU member Britain.
The European Commission has also been accused of not securing enough doses early enough.
Just last week, the EU struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to 600 million doses.
The urgency of immunizing the population has grown over fears of virus variants first seen in South Africa and Britain, which officials warn are more infectious.
But vaccine makers had repeatedly warned that production capacity was limited.
While Pfizer is augmenting capacity at Puurs, its partner BioNTech on Friday secured authorization to begin production at Germany’s Marburg.
The challenges of getting millions of vaccines around the world are also huge as the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centers in specially-designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Once out of ultra-cold storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.