I disregard resignation calls from marginal groups: Chief of general staff

I disregard resignation calls from marginal groups: Chief of general staff

I disregard resignation calls from marginal groups: Chief of general staff

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and President Abdullah Gül shake hands during the reception at the Presidential Palace in Ankara marking Republic Day. AA photo

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has dismissed calls for his resignation made by retired generals recently convicted in the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) coup plot case.

"I am also human, but if you turn me into a target, you may as well not [consider me human]. I disregard the calls for resignation that come from marginal groups. Resigning is something honorable and personal," Özel was quoted as saying today by private broadcaster NTV, speaking at a reception organized to mark the Republic Day in Ankara.

He emphasized that he had taken over from former Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who was given a life sentence in the Ergenekon trial verdict on Aug. 5, in very difficult conditions.

"I came here shouldering responsibility. I took over in a difficult period. I will only consider whether or not I have lost the trust of the people. I am here to serve the people and have no other concern," Özel told reporters.

Stressing that he was seeking to keep the military outside of politics, the chief of general staff also said that such criticism of the Turkish Armed Forces could create weaknesses that could negatively affect Turkey's future.

"I am trying not to politicize the armed forces. I am trying to keep them distant from all political currents," he said.

Following the Supreme Court of Appeals' approval of the Balyoz sentences earlier this month, one of the lawyers of the retired officers claimed that Özel had promised to resign from his position if they were convicted. The lawyer also said that one of the convicts had since conveyed a message to Özel over whether or not he now planned to resign.

U.S. has not transmitted concerns on Chinese missiles

Özel also commented on the government's choice to accept a Chinese firm's offer on a strategic long-range air and missile defense system, saying that the Turkish military had not officially received any negative reaction from the U.S.

"The United States has not transmitted any concern to us. The statements on whether the missiles are compatible with the NATO system have been made by the prime minister," he said.

Turkey announced in September that it had chosen China's FD-2000 missile defense system over rival systems from Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and Raytheon.

The move reportedly caused some unease in Washington, with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey saying on Oct. 24 that Washington was concerned about whether the deal with the Chinese firm could undermine allied air defenses, and saying that "expert" talks had started with Ankara to assess the potential impact.

Regarding the two Russian planes that were intercepted by Turkish jets last week, Özel said they did not violate Turkish airspace.

"Our jets took off for precaution. We will make public whether there has been a violation," he said.