December 27, 2009 / 1:49 PM / 10 years ago

Turkish PM rejects tensions rise with army

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denied tension between his government and the military as state prosecutors investigating an alleged assassination plot searched an army office on Sunday.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference after a meeting with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus December 23, 2009. Erdogan denied tension between his government and the military as state prosecutors investigating an alleged assassination plot searched an army office on Sunday. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

It was the second second search of the office in two days and followed the arrest on Saturday of eight soldiers.

The investigation was launched after Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said a security guard at his home in Ankara saw a car carrying two officers near the house several times.

Arinc is a powerful figure in the Islamist-rooted AK Party government and has often been at odds with the generals.

“Nobody will benefit from showing as if there were problems between the institutions. Every claim is being investigated,” Erdogan told a business gathering on Sunday.

The reports fuelled rumours of mounting tension between the AK Party and the armed forces, seen as guarantor of the secular constitution.

“An entire institution should not be blamed for the mistakes of individuals. Nobody has the right to hurt the peace in the country with rumours and allegations,” Erdogan said.

The Chief of General Staff Ilker Basbug and land forces commander Isik Kosaner met Erdogan on Saturday after the soldiers’ arrests. The National Security Council, where the assassination plot is expected to be discussed, will convene on Monday.

Opposition nationalist politicians accuse the AK Party of whipping up scares to win sympathy as the country moves towards a general election due by mid-2011.

Newspapers said it was the first time IN Turkey’s history that state prosecutors and the police raided a military headquarters. The office that was targeted was one of the army’s most secretive units.

“A strong belief emerges that the police and a part of the judiciary are trying to settle accounts with the military and the intelligence, and the appearance of tensions between the state institutions is due to this,” Radikal newspaper columnist Murat Yetkin wrote.

The military has said the two officers in the car near Arinc’s house had been running security checks on a military official living in the neighbourhood, who was suspected of leaking information.

Turkish markets showed little reaction to the assassination plot reports and the stock market closing at its highest level on Friday. But they can be scared by strains between the government and a military that has staged four coups since 1960.

(Reporting by Selcuk Gokoluk; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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