President Gül attends military exercises in Kars

President Gül attends military exercises in Kars

President Gül attends military exercises in Kars

President Abdullah Gül (L) and Chief of General Staff Gen Necdet Özel (R) speak to a soldier in winter camouflage during a drill in the eastern province of Kars. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Dressed in military camouflage and accompanied by the chief of General Staff, President Abdullah Gül attended military exercises for the first time, which were held in snowbound eastern Turkey under a war scenario involving both land and aerial combat.

“Military exercises are being conducted to ensure peace. We are a country that is a generator of stability and security. Our main objective is to protect peace and stability and develop regional cooperation. We should be prepared for war if we want peace. We have to be a deterrent to prevent wrongdoings in our region,” Gül said after observing the drills yesterday.

Three-day drills

Gül, who is also the army’s commander-in-chief, watched the soldiers from a hill overlooking the exercise field. The three-day drills, aimed at testing the army’s ability to operate in winter conditions, included demonstrations of shooting, positioning, sheltering and rescue operations. Helicopter gunships and planes took part in the drills.

Gül praised the soldiers, saying the Turkish army is “admired by the whole world.”

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel said Gül’s presence “gave the soldiers strength” and thanked the president for attending.

“It is important for the TSK to be prepared for various tasks given that Turkey is at the center of many threats,” said Özel. Stressing that risks and asymmetrical threats must be fought on a global level, rather than regionally, he underlined “the need for multi-national crisis management.”

About 2,100 soldiers took part in the drills, held near the city of Kars under the command of the 3rd Army chief, Gen. Ahmet Turmuş. Accompanying Gül and also wearing military camouflage were Deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç and Beşir Atalay as well as Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz.

Their attendance came as yet another sign of normalizing ties between Turkey’s political leadership and the army.

Civilian leaders had shunned the army’s previous winter exercises in 2010 in what was widely interpreted as a snub to then-Cmdr. Saldıray Berk, who has been implicated in an alleged plot to unseat the government. k HDN