Threat against Turkey comes from strategic partners: Erdoğan
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 21 complained that the U.S. and its allies are “supplying weapons to militants for free” while refusing to sell them to Turkey.
“So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” Erdoğan said in an interview with private broadcaster NTV.
“We cannot buy weapons from the U.S. with our money. And unfortunately the U.S. and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” he added.
The U.S. has supported the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in recent years in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The support has vexed Ankara, which views the YPG as organically linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the central Turkish government.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also called for “peace with Greece” and said he does “not want any more tensions,” amid ongoing tit-for-tat exchanges in the Aegean and Mediterranean.
“We need peace now. What’s more, our peace with you is like no other. The young, dynamic [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras wants to take a new step. In my last visit I saw the [Greek] president in the same spirit,” Erdoğan added.
Speaking about the early election called for June 24, Erdoğan said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will “continue its tenure if the nation wishes and will step down if the nation says ‘enough.’”
Parliament on April 20 passed a bill calling for early elections, with 386 lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties supporting the move. The polls had originally expected to be held in November 2019.
Erdoğan said the AKP was compelled to consider the issue following a proposal by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who is allied with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“The statement of our ally [Bahçeli] compelled us to assess the situation. We evaluated it and then reached [a conclusion],” he added, stressing that there was “no meeting with Bahçeli prior to his call for early elections.”
He also said he would have “no problem” about a request for a joint pre-election rally with the MHP, while adding that public opinion polls will be conducted to determine his party’s candidates for parliament.
The ruling party will begin campaigning following an announcement of the election schedule by the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK), Erdoğan said, also vowing to address thousands of Turkish citizens in a foreign country, without giving further details.
“I will address 10,000 to 11,000 Turkish citizens in a closed space in a country that I will not announce at the moment,” Erdoğan said.
On a question about the participation of the newly-formed opposition İYİ (Good) Party in the elections, Erdoğan said this was subject to a decision emerging from negotiations between the YSK and the prosecutor’s office of the Court of Cassation.
Fight against FETÖ
Meanwhile, Erdoğan said the whereabouts of the fugitive Adil Öksuz, accused of being the mastermind behind Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt, are still being determined.
“Some contacts have been established,” he added, noting that “so far 83 members of the [FETÖ] organization have been brought back to Turkey.”
Erdoğan said at least 16,650 outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants have been “neutralized” in Turkey and northern Iraq over the last three years.
The Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in statements to imply that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.