Turkey’s opposition divided over top soldier’s Kardak islet visit

Turkey’s opposition divided over top soldier’s Kardak islet visit

Turkey’s opposition divided over top soldier’s Kardak islet visit

AA photo

Opposition parties gave different reactions to the Jan. 29 visit of Turkey’s top brass to the Aegean islets of Kardak, which is claimed by Turkey and Greece, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticizing the move but the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) praising it.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, accompanied by the commanders of the land, naval and air forces, paid a visit with two assault boats to the disputed Aegean islets of Kardak on Jan. 29, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) announced on the same day.

“The touristic visit of the Chief of General Staff and the force commanders in the Aegean brought into question the reputation of the Turkish Armed Forces,” CHP deputy group chair Engin Altay said in a press meeting at parliament in Ankara.

“It would not provide any gain to the reputation of the Turkish Armed Forces to hold a salutation ceremony in the islets, where 10 noncommissioned officers had landed previously,” Altay added. 

He also questioned whether Akar would now be “joining the upcoming referendum campaign like [local neighborhood heads] muhtars.” 

“I wonder, does the Chief of General Staff want to participate in the referendum campaign as a political figure like the muhtars? The Chief of General Staff should be able to share what lies behind this attempt, which amounts to saluting nationalist votes,” he added. 

The MHP, however, praised the move, saying the Kardak islets are an important symbol. 

“Kardak is a symbol. I think this needs to be taken as a message,” MHP group deputy chair Erkan Akçay said, adding that the results of the visit should now be observed.

The islets, named Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish, are two small uninhabited rocks in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.

Greece and Turkey nearly went to war over the islets in 1996 in an escalation that resulted in both sides landing soldiers on an islet each.

The Jan. 29 incident comes amid fresh tension between the two countries, after the Greek Supreme Court on Jan. 26 blocked the extradition of eight former army officers who had fled to Greece after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.