Turkish PM links Uludere raid row to elections in US

Turkish PM links Uludere raid row to elections in US

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM links Uludere raid row to elections in US

Turkish PM Erdoğan (R) speaks to journalists during a joint press conference with Qatari counterpart al-Thani (L) and Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov in Varna on May 18. AFP photo

The Wall Street Journal may be part of a project to undermine the Barack Obama administration as the U.S. presidential election approaches, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

In late December 2011 34 civilians were killed in a Turkish airstrike at Uludere after they were wrongly suspected of being terrorists. Questions as to the source of the intelligence which led to the mistake have been widely disputed in Turkey, and no clear answer was forthcoming. The Wall Street Journal’s report stated that the initial intelligence leading to the attack originated from an American Predator drone.

“My assessment of this news is that it is meant to make life difficult for the current [U.S.] government,” Erdoğan said, adding that the information that led to the Uludere incident, which recently sparked great discussion in Turkey, had been gathered from Turkish domestic intelligence sources.

Erdoğan has also defended Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel against claims made by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that he was speaking in the name of the government. “The Chief of General Staff spoke about a subject that he is familiar with. Unarmed aerial vehicles [UAVs] are under the command of the Chief of General Staff,” Erdoğan said. Özel’s office has denied the claims and stated that the intelligence was received from Turkish Herons, not American Predators.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has twice commented on the issue. He first said that everyone had spoken except Erdoğan. Following Erdoğan’s speech, Kılıçdaroğlu made a second round of comments, saying that the Wall Street Journal report makes it clear that the U.S. provided the information, but that the government failed to follow up and bombed the civilians. Turkish intelligence must be independent, Kılçdaroğlu said. “[Our] foreign policy cannot be dependent upon another country’s foreign policy. This government is not independent,” he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized the fact that the Chief of General Staff made the announcement, rather than the Ministry of Defense. The Wall Street Journal report contradicted the Chief of General Staff’s announcement, he said. “I really have difficulty understanding this government’s mentality. This government failed in the Uludere case. It murdered 34 citizens.”

‘Trust our sources’
President Abdullah Gül has tried to ease the discussion around the issue, stating that polemic is unnecessary. Turkey should trust its domestic sources of intelligence first, Gül said. “According to our sources, the initial information came from [Turkish drones]. There was substance there [the route of the convoy]; it does not take a second [to collect that kind of information]. We can take pictures; other UAVs can take pictures, too. So it may be that we took pictures, and then similar information may have been received from other sources. All such images would have been sent to [Turkish forces] in the end. We should trust our national sources.”

The opposition Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy group chairman Hasip Kaplan has also commented on the issue, claiming that Uludere was a mass killing action, and there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. He has contacted the prosecutor’s office of the Supreme Court of Appeals to open an investigation of the involvement of the government, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Ministry of Defense. “Someone must explain their actions to the justice system and to Parliament,” he said.