Amid growing tensions following Monday's arrest of more than 40 military officers in connection with an alleged 2003 coup plot, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has held a summit with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armed Forces Chief General Ilker Basbug.
In a statement released after the meeting on Thursday, Mr. Gul stressed that “citizens can be sure that the problems on the agenda will be solved within the framework of the Constitution and our laws.”
The meeting was prompted to ease civil-military tensions after the arrest of more than 40 officers for their suspected role in the alleged “sledgehammer” plot.
Those detained included the former Chief of the Air Force, Ibrahim Firtina, the former Naval Chief, Ozden Ornec, and the former Deputy Army Chief, Ergin Saygun. After four days of questioning, the three have been freed. They have not been charged, but kept under investigation. General Saygun, however, has been asked to interact with the police regularly.
Analysts point out that the events are unprecedented as no civil administration in recent history has so boldly questioned the elevated position in the establishment of the military, supposedly the guardian of the country's pro-western secular tradition.
The tussle between the democratically-elected civilian government, headed by the AK party, which has Islamic roots, and the military, coincides with a major reorientation in the foreign policy.
Turkey has been gradually distancing itself from Israel, its long-time “strategic ally”, and is developing closer ties with the rival camp which includes the Palestinians, Iran and Syria.
General Basbug has gone on record to say military coups are a thing of the past, irrespective of a string of military overthrows or forced resignations that Turkey has witnessed between 1960 and 1997. The “sledgehammer” plot was first reported in the liberal Taraf newspaper. The newspaper cited documents in its possession to say plotters wanted to create chaos and stage a coup after masterminding the bombing of two Istanbul mosques and by provoking Greece to shoot down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea, resulting in war. The Turkish daily Zaman is reporting that the plot was allegedly drawn up in 2003 and discussed at a military seminar in March that year. Prosecutors have apparently questioned the suspects about the seminar after handing them over uninterrupted voice recordings and a 175-page transcript of the deliberations.