Turkish PM rules out cracks with president in fight against terror

Turkish PM rules out cracks with president in fight against terror

Abdülkadir Selvi - ANKARA
Turkish PM rules out cracks with president in fight against terror

AA photo

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has denied the existence of any disagreements with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the fight against terrorism and other critical issues, blaming some “anonymous groups” for the suggestion of a row.

“There may be some people who wanted to create such a perception … You cannot find even the tiniest nuance between my statements and those of our president in the fight against terrorism,” Davutoğlu said late April 6 on his return from Finland. 

Speculation has emerged over differences of opinion between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu after the former categorically rejected an idea of returning to the negotiation table to stop Turkey’s political strife, although the latter said dialogue could be resumed with the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue, in the event the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) disarms.

“There are two groups who are trying to create this perception,” Davutoğlu said, blaming the HDP and an anonymous group who are trying to depict the government as not being as determined as the president in the fight against terror. 

The prime minister repeated that both he and Erdoğan have long been saying the political talks could be resumed if all weapons are buried in cement, or as he puts it, into magma. 

Differences in style

Another point on which the two men differed was the discussion about academics who have been arrested on charges of supporting terrorism. Davutoğlu had told reporters last week that he was in principle against any pre-trial detentions but received a very cold response from Erdoğan, who publicly challenged the prime minister’s view. 

“I am talking about a principle. This has nothing to with showing tolerance or covering up a crime. We are all equal before the law. I do not think I am differing from the president on fundamental terms,” he said. “I have never said that academics should have special treatment.” 

However, he acknowledged that there could differences in style between him and the president who share common ethical points when it comes to serving the state. “The second thing is the confidence and the loyalty we feel toward each other. We will never allow these to be shaken. But there can be different opinions. We were talking about everything with our president when he was the prime minister and I was the foreign minister,” he said. 

Gov’t has no work on stripping citizenship 

Responding to a question on whether the government was working on stripping “supporters of terrorism” of their citizenship, Davutoğlu underlined that existing laws only permitted this in cases of espionage or when a Turkish national serves another country’s army. “It’s not possible to do this based on the charges of supporting terrorism according to our existing laws,” he said, adding therefore that the government was not working on it.  

“We have never discussed or talked about this issue. If our president is of the opinion that there is a need for this and that can be beneficial in our fight against terror, then the necessary legal works will be conducted after a detailed scrutiny of its legal frame,” he added. 

Freedom of expression a must 

On discussions over the state of freedom of expression in Turkey after the president’s visit to the United States last week, Davutoğlu reiterated that he was always defending the freedom of expression for a free and creative country. “If, in a country, restrictions are imposed on thoughts, then the freedom and creativity of that country will be eroded. Everybody should freely produce thoughts and carry out scientific activities,” he said, adding that using this freedom should always have ethical and legal boundaries. 

“Everything must be told unless it contains insults or threats or promotes violence and hatred,” he said, recalling that some international media outlets have openly insulted Erdoğan in recent times, especially a music video aired in Germany drawing attention to Erdoğan’s growing authoritarianism. 

“I speak German. Nobody can say the words that have been used in this [video] to another person. This is not freedom of expression,” he said. “We are talking about the president who represents the honor and dignity of the Republic of Turkey.” 

The prime minister accused the international media of implementing double standards when it comes to Turkey. “[French President François] Hollande invited the army into Paris after the terrorist attack. If we had done the same, we would have been the subject of some very heavy criticism over authoritarianism and deteriorating freedoms.”