Turkish chief of staff returns to post after 15-day medical leave

Turkish chief of staff returns to post after 15-day medical leave

Turkish chief of staff returns to post after 15-day medical leave

DHA Photo

The top commander of Turkey has returned back to his office after a 15-day medical leave of absence, which led to speculations about whether a possible disagreement over military intervention in Syria was the real reason for his leave.

“Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, who underwent a successful surgery on May 9, has begun work again,” said a brief statement posted on the General Staff’s official website May 25.

The statement, posted as part of a list of news from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), did not elaborate on Özel’s surgery.

At the time of his leave, both the TSK and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu refuted claims that Özel had left his office because of a disagreement between him and the government about military intervention in Syria. 

“Gen. Özel underwent a successful medical operation and his health is stable. Land Forces Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar will serve as acting Chief of General Staff during the sick leave of Gen. Özel,” the TSK said in a written statement May 11. 

The army’s statement came after news broke that Özel had received a 15-day sick leave for medical treatment, causing the wide spread speculations about a possible disagreement between the army and government. The rumors started after a senior opposition party official argued that the government was planning to enter Syria “within days.” 

“Speculative news that has been published by a few media institutions does not reflect the truth,” the army said in the statement at the time. 

Davutoğlu also said claims that Özel will ask to retire do not reflect reality in an interview with the daily Yeni Şafak. “I talked to him. His health and moral is stable. He won’t retire,” Davutoğlu said, reiterating his leave was due to medical reasons.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called Özel on the first day he took his leave, sources from his office said on May 25. Davutoğlu, who was in the southern Anatolian province of Mersin for an election rally on May 9, initiated a telephone conversation with Özel after the rally in order to extend his get-well-soon wishes. The same sources, speaking anonymously, also said on May 25 that Davutoğlu had personally paid a visit to Özel at his home on May 7 to extend his good wishes.

Özel is set to retire due to age limitations on Aug. 30 if the government does not opt to extend his mandate for another year.