PM Erdoğan, former chief of staff meet for surprise talks
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Former Chief of General Staff retired Gen Özkök (L) requests to meet with Prime Minister Erdoğan in a surprise meeting whose secret agenda sparks curiosity. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was scheduled to meet with former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök late yesterday in a surprise gathering whose topic was not announced. The PM’s Office said the request came from retired Gen. Özkök and was considered to be a courtesy visit. The Daily News learned that Özkök did not plan to raise any specific issue at the meeting.
Özkök’s meeting comes at a time when hundreds of high-ranking active and retired officers are behind bars due to coup plot claims and a week after he met with former Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt.
Özkök served as the chief of General Staff between 2002 and 2006 and was severely criticized by staunchly secularist circles for being on good terms with Erdoğan’s government.
Former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who is currently on trial for his alleged order to establish websites to defame the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, said in court that he shut down the websites, which were established before he took the post.
Büyükanıt assumed the post before Başbuğ, who served as the chief of Staff from 2008 to 2010.
High-ranking officials on trial in the Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot cases have said Özkök and Büyükanıt should testify.
Retired Gen. Şükrü Sarıışık, the former secretary-general of National Security Council (MGK) who is now under arrest in the Balyoz case, said during a hearing last month that the commanders have the responsibility for everything that occurs in the army. “They should give answers,” Sarıışık said. “In the War Academy, we swore to be together until death; now they should come here and stand behind their words.”