MoD: Gov’t will not talk to terrorists
Turkey will not let an armed organization roam freely in its mountains nor will it talk to terrorists, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said on Monday in an interview with Today’s Zaman.
Speaking about the government’s recently announced shift of strategy in fighting terrorism, Yılmaz said, “Men with weapons in their hands will not roam our mountains.”
According to Yılmaz, the terrorist network Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated groups, including the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), as Turkish prosecutors claim, voices the demands of the men with guns. He said the government would like to see a democratic organization as the representatives of the people of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast.
The minister also dismissed claims that a large number of generals currently jailed as suspects in ongoing trials into alleged coup d’état attempts could hamper the fight against terror. “Our military has the ability to carry out any task it is assigned with success,” he said.
He also criticized the General Staff’s “accreditation” policies, which do not grant some newspapers access to its news conferences or facilities. Yılmaz said such a press accreditation classification could never be approved by his ministry. “We don’t think this is proper,” he said. He also noted his belief that the accreditation problem faced by some newspapers will be solved.
The minister in addition noted that as Turkey advances its fight against terrorists, there will be no compromises on fundamental rights and freedoms. However, he said, “As long as the terrorists are in the mountains, the people of the region can’t exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms as they should.”
The minister also offered an assessment of the Uludere incident, where 34 civilians crossing the border with Iraq back into Turkey after a day of trading with merchants on the other side of the border were killed in an airstrike by Turkish fighter jets in late December 2011. “It is an incident that should have never happened. It is the state’s duty to be able to tell a terrorist from a smuggler.”
On BDP’s criticism of army chief
Minister Yılmaz also responded to a question on criticisms directed at Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel by the BDP, after the army chief voiced his opposition to offering education in public schools in the Kurdish language. Yılmaz said the BDP has every right to criticize whoever it deems necessary within the democratic system, adding: “But expressions that go well beyond the boundaries of criticism and turn into outright insults are unacceptable. It is impossible to tolerate these or words or act as if they were never uttered.”
In January, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) started legal action against BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş for his statements targeting Özel. Demirtaş had said that Özel “is not even a corporal” in his eyes, after the army chief said he was opposed to the use of Kurdish in public schools. “Even if your rank is general, you are a corporal in our [the BDP's] eyes. Your value is just that. It does not matter for us whether it is a general or a corporal speaking. You have no value in our eyes,” the BDP leader said earlier in January.
Minister Yılmaz also shared his opinion on some of the ongoing trials into past coups d’état in Turkey. He said all of the military interventions of the past had been convicted in the collective conscience of the people. He also offered information on the recent number of applications filed by individuals who want to benefit from a scheme that allows them to pay TL 30,000 to shorten their military service to just 20 days. So far 18,973 applications have been made, earning the Treasury TL 444 million.
The minister gave information on the state of affairs in Turkey’s transition to a professional army. “Currently, 35 percent of the military — made up of NCOs, senior gendarmerie sergeants and senior sergeants in the military — are professional soldiers,” the minister said.
Changes planned in defense industry
The minister also said there were plans to reduce the number of direct purchases of defense industry equipment by the military, responding to criticism that defense companies such as TAI, Aselsan, Havelsan and Roketsan — which are all subsidiaries of the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces (TSKGV) are not being managed well. “We are proud of the point at which our companies stand today. They need to be taken further; their competitive power needs to be increased. Only if this can be realized can these companies continue their existence. Most tenders are awarded directly, and this definitely undermines the competitive side of these companies. After this, we will minimize direct purchases from these companies and have them compete in tenders as suppliers.”
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