Incarcerated military personnel will have no chance to be promoted to a high rank as the only determining factor during the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, will be relevant laws regulating the appointments, government officials have said.
"What we do is to implement the law," a government source told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday, the second day of the annual YAŞ, in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with the military leadership, led by acting Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel.
Many questions remain about how the two sides will resolve deadlocks over the status of jailed generals and fill the posts of the top brass following their collective resignation last week. According the law on military personnel, imprisoned or prosecuted military personnel cannot be promoted to a higher rank or be appointed to another position.
The unprecedented resignations Friday of Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner and the commanders of the land, air and naval forces stoked expectations that the government would be more assertive than ever in shaping the country's military command, underscoring the army's waning clout and boosting Erdoğan's standing at this year's YAŞ.
In a sign of the government's growing self-confidence, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ played down the resignations and ruled out the prospect of continuing frictions with the military.
"I do not expect problems in civilian-military relations in the coming period. Turkey has reached a democratic maturity," Bozdağ said in an interview Tuesday with daily Radikal.
The top brass resignations signify "the pangs that Turkey is experiencing in its process of democratization and normalization," he said. "They are an indication of the progress our country has achieved in democracy."
A key point of contention at YAŞ is the case of 14 generals in line for promotion, who remain in prison pending trial on coup charges. Their promotion is barred by law, but the military is reportedly opposed to sending them into retirement as the government demands, insisting that they should not be penalized without conviction.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the government wants to decide first on the promotion of lower-ranking officers and keep the appointment of the three forces' commanders for the last YAÞ day Thursday, a strategy that has further complicated the process since the law requires the commanders' nomination for the promotion of subordinates.
Erdoğan's unscheduled meeting with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on Monday, immediately after he met with Özel, has raised speculation that the government may consider legal amendments to end the deadlock, using its six-month mandate to issue decrees with the force of a law that Parliament approved in April.
Observers speculate the government may also consider a middle-way formula to resolve the question of what to do with the 14 generals behind bars. A possible settlement may entail the establishment of a special position for the incarcerated generals that would "freeze" their rankings for some time.
Such a move, however, would effectively block the way up for lower-ranking officers and raise questions on whether the lengthy detention periods, already under fire, are being legitimized.
Under existing procedures, generals can be kept in "a waiting line" for promotion for a maximum of two years; they are automatically sent into retirement if not eventually promoted.
The military risks taking another imminent blow if an Istanbul court heeds a prosecutor's demand to issue an arrest warrant for Gen. Nusret Taþdeler, the commander of the Aegean Army, who is sitting on the YAÞ.
The most senior soldier already behind bars is four-star general Bilgin Balanlý, who was in line to become air force commander when he landed in prison in May for involvement in the alleged Balyoz Sledgehammer coup-plot case, purportedly drawn up shortly after the ruling party came to power in November 2002.
With succession lines in disarray amid the detentions, three-star generals Abidin Ünal and Mehmet Erten are reportedly the most likely candidates to head the air force, while Fleet Commander Adm. Murat Bilgel appears set to take over the navy.
Turkey Shuns British Report Over Illegal Immigration, Border Security
Turkey has defied a British report over the European Union-hopeful country's performance in struggling with irregular migration and border security, rejecting it as "an understatement of Turkey's efforts and constructive cooperation."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has conveyed to his British counterpart William Hague Turkey's uneasiness over the report, which was made public on Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
"The report underestimates concrete progress our country has made in EU harmonization in justice and internal affairs, as well as measures it has taken against irregular migration. The report also fails to give a fair account of our constructive cooperation in a way that it could cause misunderstandings and concerns over our EU accession bid," the statement said.
The statement said Turkey has never been a source country for irregular migration, adding, "As a transit country like certain EU countries, it is negatively affected by irregular migration.
"The report's insinuation that Turkey could become a source country is, above all else, contrary to the facts of today. Turkey uses all means and resources in its power to prevent irregular migration and human smuggling," the statement said.
The statement also criticizes the EU for rejecting to open the policy chapter in Turkey's negotiations on "Justice, Freedoms and Security," saying that the Union's failure held Turkey back from full cooperation with European institutions, such as the Europol and Frontex.
U.S. Ambassador Says Turkish-U.S. Relations Above Individuals
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Joseph Ricciardone said on Wednesday that security relations between Turkey and the United States were above the individuals.
Ricciardone, who was nominated as ambassador to Turkey for one year by President Barack Obama, spoke at a hearing that took place in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his nomination process re-started in the Senate.
"During my 33-year career in the Foreign Service, I've had the pleasure and the privilege of having served in Turkey previously three times. And through this period, I've observed Turkey's continuing transformation into a more democratic and more open and more economically vibrant modern state, and as a player with growing influence on the world stage," he said. "Throughout this change in development, there has been one constant, and that has been Turkey's continued commitment to its partnership with the United States and the NATO alliance. It's also a member of the G-20 now, and having one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Noting Turkey's history as a majority Muslim nation, and as a secular democracy that respects the rule of law, President Obama cited Turkey's critical role in helping to shape the mutual understanding and stability, not only in its neighborhood, but around the world.
"If confirmed, I will continue to do everything I can to reinforce Turkish-American cooperation in support of our common goals, which are rooted in the security alliance, and our shared democratic values," Ricciardone said.
"For decades, Turkey and the United States have cooperated intensively to promote regional stability, including by countering terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, resolving regional conflicts, promoting energy security, expanding trade, investment and economic development; and integral to all of those, strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
"While we share many goals with Turkey, one of the most important is countering global terrorism and networks. And Turkey has been one of our strongest partners in that pursuit. Just last month, Turkish security officials arrested an alleged al-Qaida cell that was plotting to bomb Western interests in Turkey, including the United States Embassy. We support Turkey's own foremost security objective of defeating the terrorist violence which the PKK continues to perpetrate and which has led to the deaths of over 30,000 Turks since the 1980s.
"We strongly support Turkey's efforts to improve the human rights and economic situation for the Kurds, and their democratic participation as full citizens, and the rights also of other communities of vulnerable groups in Turkey.
"As the United States maintains its longstanding support for Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union, we will continue to press for the reforms required for accession. It's important to note the Turkish citizens themselves are demanding further progress on promoting human rights and the rule of law, most certainly including freedom of speech and religious freedom.
"The U.S. supports the transparent and inclusive constitutional reform process to strengthen Turkey's democracy. We regard freedom of expression as central to democracy, and we believe the reform process offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the protections afforded to journalists, to nongovernmental organizations, and to minorities," Ricciardone said.
Ricciardone emphasized the importance of the U.S. improving economic relations.
"I've been privileged to serve in Ankara during the Arab Spring, during which I've strived to enlist Turkish support for the NATO role in Libya, for a successful transition to democracy in Egypt, and in collaboration with my colleague and friend next door in Syria, to pressure the regime in Syria to cease its brutal repression and to heed the will of its people," he said.
Asked to comment on the stance of Chief of General Staff and force commanders who asked for their retirement and what this meant for Turkey, Ricciardone said Turks have been analyzing what this means for Turkey, its democracy and civilian government. Ricciardone said they were ready to work with the new command element, underlining that he was sure that security relations between the parties would continue to be strong.
Ricciardone said: "On missile defense, Turkey did support, of course, the NATO statement at Lisbon. They support the NATO effort to have a phased adaptive approach radar system. We've moved well beyond that generality to have detailed technical discussions and legal discussions with the government of Turkey. We hope that the Turkish government will feel it has enough information to make a decision very soon. I'll be racing back to Ankara to try to find out more. We're waiting for that."
Senator Robert Menendez, known for his opposing stance against Turkey, criticized statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyi Erdogan on Cyprus, and asked Ricciardone about his own views.
Ricciardone said the United States wanted a solution based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus.
Referring to the question of Menendez on Armenian allegations regarding 1915 incidents, Ricciardone said, " I stand behind President Obama's characterization of the Yeds Meghern (sic), as the Armenians themselves call it, the tragic massacre, murder of, you know, a million and a half men, women and children marched to their deaths in 1915. But I stand behind our characterization of that and our efforts of what we're trying to do now."
Responding to a question on Syria, Ricciardone said any instability in Syria could have direct security and economic repercussions on Turkey's vital national interests. He also conveyed recent statements of Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan regarding Syria.
Ricciardone said the United States gave importance to religious freedoms and religious rights of minorities in Turkey. He said Turkey has been exerting efforts on the matter. Ricciardone also said the Turkish government did not see religious minorities as a threat and was pleased with religious diversity in the country.
"I feel very certain, having discussed this at length with the prime minister and the foreign minister, certainly the military leadership, that all these Turks, whatever their feelings, misgivings, irritation, issues over the terrible flotilla incident of last year, over events in Gaza, they understand that to influence events in the region, to be part of a more peaceful and prosperous region, which is in their vital national interest, they need to have a normal, fruitful, respectful, full diplomatic dialogue with Israel, and they want to get back to that," Ricciardone said regarding Turkey's relations with Israel following the Mavi Marmara attack last May.
Cicek Asks for Jail Release; Internet Memo Real, He Says
In the 22nd hearing of the case "Action Plan on Fight Against Fundamentalism," Navy Colonel Dursun Cicek asked to be released, saying he was in jail for 16 months.
"The indictment on [the] internet memo was accepted by the court. The Internet memo is a real document. I would also admit it if the wet signature was real, too. It is not a document, it is just a piece of paper. But it is enough for my arrest," Cicek said.
Burkay: End to Military Operations May Contribute to Peace
Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay visited politician and poet Kemal Burkay.
Gunay said Burkay would make a great contribution to solving the Kurdish problem. Burkay said: "We can not tell the army to lay down arms. However, it may contribute to the peace by putting an end to military operations."
Winesses of Syria Massacre Speak Out
Witnesses of the massacre in Syria spoke to Radikal. Bashar Al-Assad's soldiers made this announcement and killed 150 people in Hama.
Basil, 28, a computer engineer, said: "There are snipers in the street. I cannot get out. They are bombing the mosque so that people would not stage protest after the prayer. They are killing without caring about prayer calls or fast-breaking."
Farmer Hisham says Rayes Hospital and Ashehr Bishir Mosque were also hit. "Soldiers are firing randomly. They ravaged Kaza, a village near Hama," he says.
International Intervention in Syria Depends on Turkey, Experts Say
Hama massacre of the Syrian army caused strong reaction to Bashar al-Asad. Commenting on the "military operation," strategy experts saidm, "Turkey's support is the condition of intervention. Otherwise, this is impossible." Asked if there will be international intervention in Syria, experts said, "There will not be if Turkey does not want."
From Ankara to Syria: We Will Not Remain Silent
Turkish President Abdullah Gul reacted strongly to the massacre of civilians in Syria, saying, "It is impossible for us to remain indifferent."
AK Party Takes Interest in Kurdish Politician
Kurdish politician Kemal Burkay met European Union Minister Egemen Bagis. Bagis said the line in Burkay's poem "Gulumse," which means "Smile" says "climate changes become Mediterranean" told of the transformation process in Turkey. Burkay said: "Maybe Mediterranean climate can totally come six months or a year later. At the moment, we are living February and March weather."
YAS Agrees on Appointments for Force Commands
The Supreme Military Council meeting lasted for 6 hours on the second day. An agreement was reached for appointments to be made for force commands. Gen. Hayri Kivrikoglu will be appointed as Land Forces Commander; Gen. Yalcin Ataman as Gendarmerie General Commander; Full Admiral Murat Bigel as Naval Forces Command and Lieutenant General Mehmet Erten will be appointed as Land Forces Commander.
The current dilemma within the YAS meetings is the promotion of arrested generals. The government wants to retire the 14 general who are on trial on charges in the Balyoz Sledgehammer case. But laying the generals and admirals off is also at the table. Uncertainty still continues against Major General Helvacioglu, Major General Kaya and Rear Admiral Gavremoglu, who had to be promoted last year, but whose decrees were not approved by the government.