Turkey’s Supreme Military Council members visit Anıtkabir before key meeting
Members of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, visited today Anıtkabir. DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin SÖNMEZMembers of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, visited today Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, before meeting to decide on promotions in the Turkish military.
The meeting started today at around 11 a.m. amid questions surrounding the promotion of generals who have run afoul of the government, as well as resignations from the army in protest at cases involving senior officers.
There were no drinks on the table in the meeting room, just like last year, as Muslims observe Ramadan, the holy month during which observant Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.
There have been more meetings than usual between civilian and military leaders this week, with President Abdullah Gül and Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel bringing ahead their usual Thursday meeting to July 31. Likewise, Erdoğan and Özel held a meeting on July 30 that lasted longer than half an hour. There was additional speculation after Özel visited Erdoğan’s office for a five-minute-long meeting on July 31 soon after his meeting with Gül. Later that evening, Erdoğan and Özel also gathered for an iftar hosted at the General Staff headquarters for members of YAŞ.
In the last few days, several news reports were published about the resignations of top commanders from the Air Force.
The promotions of more than 20 generals and admirals who are on trial in cases such as the Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Seldgehammer) coup plot cases and a military espionage case or are subject to investigations concerning unknown murders will be reviewed at this YAŞ meeting. Such members are expected to depart into retirement as a result of decisions at the YAŞ meeting.
There are also questions circulating around the future of Chief of Gendarmerie Forces Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu.
According to customary practice, Kalyoncu would be expected to replace the current chief of the Land Forces, a usual step before becoming the chief of the General Staff following a two-year long tenure.
If appointed as the new chief of the Land Forces, Kalyoncu will be eligible to become the top commander.
Yet, according to a recent daily Hürriyet report, there is speculation that the government does not approve of Kalyoncu’s promotion because his name was mentioned in testimonies by defendants in the Ergenekon case as a figure involved in operations run by the alleged Ergenekon gang.
Earlier this week, several newspapers reported that Lt. Gen. Nezih Damcı of the Air Force submitted his petition for resignation and went on leave. Damcı has been particularly irritated about being targeted by pro-government newspapers for his reported involvement in the Uludere massacre of December 2011, when 34 civilian villagers were killed in an air strike near the Turkish-Iraqi border after being allegedly mistaken for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants as they smuggled goods from northern Iraq into Turkey.
According to Hürriyet’s report, Damcı’s resignation from the Air Force was received by the General Staff command just yesterday, only hours before today’s meeting.
Also at the meeting, the situation of jailed military officers due to allegations in the Ergenekon, Balyoz and military espionage trials will be clarified. In previous YAŞ meetings, the promotions of the generals in custody were suspended. Currently, 235 commissioned and non-commissioned officers, in addition to 15 generals and admirals, are under arrest.