US cooperating on PKK fight, says top commander

US cooperating on PKK fight, says top commander

US cooperating on PKK fight, says top commander

Chief of General Staff Gen Necdet Özel salutes soldiers at a ceremony. Özel rebuffed appeals for house arrest for Öcalan. DHA photo

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has expressed satisfaction with U.S. cooperation in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), stressing that Turkey’s requests on intelligence sharing were being met.

“I can confirm that the U.S. is engaging positively with our demands,” Özel said in response to written questions by the private CNN Türk news channel.

Four U.S. Predator drones delivered recently to the İncirlik base in southern Turkey have been operational since Nov. 23, he said. He added that Israel had completed the maintenance of five Heron drone engines and they were now back on Turkish soil.

Turkey’s homemade unmanned surveillance aircraft Anka will become operational “soon.” “We aim to end dependence on foreign [technology] this way,” he said.

Özel denied suggestions that İncirlik was being converted into “an intelligence base,” while confirming that a U.S. radar system would be stationed in the eastern province of Malatya by the end of 2011 as part of NATO’s missile shield project.

The general rebuffed appeals for house arrest for jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on grounds that such a move would “harm the people’s sense of justice and confidence in the state.”

He rejected criticism that Turkey’s struggle against the PKK was a failure, stressing that “getting a definitive result is difficult as long as the internal and external resources feeding terror remain.”

Loyalty to ‘founding philosophy’

Özel said he was proud to head the Turkish military following speculation over his decision not to leave alongside former Chief of Staff Işık Koşaner and three force commanders when they resigned in July.

He described himself as “loyal” to the founding philosophy of the Turkish Republic and the principles of the constitutional and the military oath. He vowed to carry out his duty in a transparent manner, maintaining dialogue with authorities.

Özel defended his recent visit to coup suspects held in the Hasdal Military Prison, stressing military traditions of comradeship and rejecting any other motive than humanitarian concern “for people of rank who have not yet been convicted.”

He withheld from commenting on the government’s bill regarding paid military service, saying the decision was for executive and legislative bodies to finalize.

Late Nov. 24, the General Staff headquarters issued a statement to confirm an investigation had been launched into how a prominent suspect in a court case on the military’s alleged involvement in anti-government Internet sites, Gen. Mustafa Bakıcı, managed to flee abroad.

The statement also denied plans were under way to remove Kenan Evren’s name from a garrison in Istanbul.