Turkish President, government back army in raid saga

Turkish President, government back army in raid saga

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish President, government back army in raid saga

President Abdullah Gül (C) is welcomed by Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek (L) and Industry Minister Nihat Ergün (R) at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport on his return from a nine-day trip to the United States, during which he attended a NATO summit. AA photo

President Abdullah Gül and the government have backed military officials who are under fire for last year’s botched air strike that killed 34 civilians in Southeast Anatolia, days after the interior minister blamed Air Force commanders for the massacre.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz denounced media reports that suggested Chief of Air Force Gen. Mehmet Erten gave orders for the strike while Gül said there was no cover-up for the strike and that military authorities had shared all records and information with judicial authorities.

“Our Chief of the Air Staff has been commanding one of the top institutions of the world successfully. It’s obvious that the main motive behind the severe criticisms against our commander is to slander the fight of our Air Force and Turkish Armed Forces against terrorism,” Yılmaz told Anatolia news agency.

Order from Air Forces
The simmering debate on how the Dec. 28, 2011, raid in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Uludere district unfolded was rekindled after Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said last week that the order for the strike was given by commanders at Air Force headquarters in Ankara. Some media reports accordingly pointed the finger at Erten, suggesting he ordered the strike.

Yılmaz said he had not commented on the issue until today because a judicial probe into the raid was continuing and added that some lawmakers had made statements in Parliament that could influence the ongoing investigation. Media reports that have accused Erten are an “offence against both the Turkish Air Force and the Turkish Armed Forces,” he said, adding that they would fight with these attacks within the limits of the law.

Gül commented on the issue as he returned from his 10-day long U.S. trip where he participated in NATO’s summit in Chicago. Asked about Şahin’s controversial statements, Gül said: “We are in deep sorrow for this [Uludere] incident. Some are talking about an apology; we have intense sorrow, this is beyond apology. People in the region and the relatives of those who lost their lives should perceive this [sorrow].” Gül also said there was no cover-up surrounding the strike. “Our military officials shared all documents, records and information with the judicial authorities. They will share anything if needed.”
Touching on a May 25 suicide attack in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Gül said Turkey should end the Kurdish problem to speed up its development.

“If these issues do not drop from our agenda, serious political and social problems occur. State institutions, political structures and everybody else who pays attention to the [Kurdish] issue should make sincere efforts to overcome this issue,” Gül said.