The Aegean province of İzmir will be transformed into NATO’s land base, said Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül on Monday.
“The final shape of the planning is that İzmir will be the Land Force Command of NATO,” Gönül was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency in Antalya.
İzmir was hosting NATO’s air base and was one of the two headquarters, along with the one in Larissa, Greece, that NATO was considering shutting down last year as part of plans to tighten its command structure.
“We insisted on a restructuring, which will display İzmir’s international identity. Some work has been done, and we struggled. Now NATO’s land force command is moving to İzmir. Thus, instead of the air force, the land force will be in İzmir,” said Gönül.
He said the number of personnel at the base would not change very much.
“It has not yet been submitted to decision-making mechanisms,” said Gönül. “But according to the plans, NATO’s Air Force will be based in İzmir.” The new plan will be discussed at the NATO’s meeting of defense ministers on June 8-9.
İzmir is also playing a critical role in the undertaking of NATO’s mission in Libya, acting as the center for operations monitoring the no-fly zone in crisis-stricken North African country.