Turkish PM to travel abroad amid speculation over his health

Turkish PM to travel abroad amid speculation over his health

Turkish PM to travel abroad amid speculation over his health

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. DHA photo

Amid speculation over his health, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay a one-day working visit to Turkmenistan on Aug. 15 at the invitation of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

“Within the scope of the working visit, Erdoğan will go to the city of Turkmenbashi and will conduct examinations in the Avaza region on the Caspian coast,” Anadolu Agency reported early in the morning Aug. 13, citing sources from the Prime Ministry.

The agency did not further elaborate on the visit. The announcement through the semi-official news agency came only hours after Erdoğan’s office had denied Aug. 12 reports he had been hospitalized for a stomach condition in the past week, dismissing what it called “baseless allegations.”

Speculation about Erdoğan’s health has been rife since he had surgery to remove polyps from his intestines in late 2011.

Polyps are abnormal growths of tissue that can be cancerous. However, following the surgery, Turkish media cited Erdoğan’s doctor as saying the polyps had been harmless.

Reports published in Yurt newspaper and other Turkish dailies on Aug. 12 said Erdoğan had spent five days in hospital with an upset stomach. The papers provided no source for the reports.

In a statement, Erdoğan’s office called the reports “baseless allegations” and said the prime minister, in power since 2003, would begin his usual schedule this weekend after several days of holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Erdoğan, who normally speaks daily on live television and travels frequently around the country, has not appeared in public over the holiday period.

Power in Turkey has become highly centralized around Erdoğan, who has made little secret about his desire to become president, and rifts have emerged within his party during previous absences.

Two consecutive Cabinet meetings were canceled following Erdoğan’s surgery, fueling speculation about what would happen if the man who has towered over Turkish politics for the last decade were to withdraw from public life.