Turkish PM, army meet to appoint new high command

Reuters , Monday 1 Aug 2011

In what is seen as a move to gain greater control over what was once an all-powerful military, Turkey's PM Erdogan met Monday with top brass to choose new senior generals in the wake of four official resignations

Turkey's PM Erdogan is flanked by General Ozel, Defense Minister Yilmaz and top military officials (Reuters)

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met Turkey's military top officials on Monday to choose a new high command after the most senior generals in NATO's second-biggest armed forces quit in protest over arrests of officers linked to alleged coup plots.

Long-running strains between the secularist military and Islamist-rooted government boiled over on Friday when Chief of General Staff Isik Kosaner stepped down, along with army, navy and air force commanders.

The resignations will enable Erdogan to consolidate control over a once-omnipotent military, which staged a series of coups since 1960 but whose power has been curbed by EU-backed reforms since pushing an Islamist-led government from power in 1997.

At the heart of the matter is the alleged "Sledgehammer" plot, based on events at a 2003 military seminar. Officers say evidence against them has been fabricated and that allegations concern what was merely a war games exercise.

Erdogan launched the four-day Supreme Military Council (YAS) meeting on Monday and by tradition he and the generals will visit the mausoleum of modern Turkey's soldier-statesman founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during the day.

Only nine of the 14 generals who would normally attend the meeting were there. As well as the resignations, one commander is in jail. Erdogan sat alone at the head of the table where normally he would sit beside the chief of staff.

Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz also attended the meeting.

Erdogan has moved quickly to designate former gendarmerie chief General Necdet Ozel as acting chief after Kosaner quit, but he is not expected to be confirmed as the overall commander until the key promotions are announced on Thursday.

Financial markets shrugged off the resignations in early Monday trade, focusing on the last-minute deal reached in the United States to avoid a debt default.

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