Turkish President Gül weighs into debate, stands behind intelligence chief

Turkish President Gül weighs into debate, stands behind intelligence chief

Turkish President Gül weighs into debate, stands behind intelligence chief


In noticeably measured remarks of support, President Abdullah Gül has stepped into the heated debate surrounding National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan.

“The MİT and its undersecretary do fulfill are fulfilling, in the best way, the duties assigned to them in line with Turkey’s national benefits and interests,” Gül told journalists on Oct. 23.

“Sometimes, there may be circles who are annoyed with these activities as well,” he said, adding that he thought recent news reports were the result of a “systematic” effort.

“These [efforts] should not influence anybody. Turkey’s own independent policies and their implementation and Turkey’s interests come before everything else. Accordingly, what has been written outside [of the country] is not of much importance for us,” Gül said.

Fidan has recently come under fire for allegedly misconducting Turkey’s Syria policy and cooperating with the Iranian government to the detriment of regional Israeli intelligence interests.

The MİT chief’s rise as a bureaucrat started during Gül’s tenure as the foreign minister. In 2003, Fidan was appointed as the head of the Prime Ministry’s Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), an institution that has been conducting a central role under the current government, which came to power for the first time in 2002. TİKA has been a key body in Turkey’s efforts in reaching out to different regions in need and the redevelopment of these regions, such as the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

Earlier, on Oct. 23, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated full support for Fidan, while he declined to deliver a direct response to comments suggesting that recent news reports exposing alleged controversies about Fidan have been actually targeting himself and his government.

Those commentators have been “speaking off the top of their heads,” Erdoğan said, using a Turkish idiom. “We do not have the right to ask anybody, ‘Why did you speak like this, why did you use these expressions?’”

In remarks made to Turkish reporters surrounding the issue on Oct. 22, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor stressed that the objective of such reports could complicate the Turkish-Israeli relationship, without either denying or confirming the report.

“The important thing is we would [never] let our bureaucrats or our political combat fellows be eaten [by others] unless something happens,” Erdoğan said, in response to questions during a press conference at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport, ahead of his departure to Kosovo.

The prime minister stressed that the government would not act against the people, or “fellows” as he called them, which includes the MİT chief as well as others from the Turkish armed forces, without seeing any substantial evidence proving the allegations against them.

An Oct. 17 report from the Washington Post took command of the Turkish news agenda after it claimed Turkey’s deliberate uncovering of an Israeli spy-ring’s internal operations in Iran around early 2012.

The Washington Post allegations angered officials in Ankara, already on the defensive after a Wall Street Journal story printed on Oct. 9 suggested Fidan was acting “independently” on Syria operations, jeopardizing local Western interests.