The Turkish president slams former naval officers who have warned his plans for a new Istanbul canal threatened a maritime treaty.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a statement from former admirals warning his plans for a new canal in Istanbul jeopardized the Montreux Convention maritime deal hinted at a political coup, although ‘he added that he was committed to the pact.
Earlier Monday, Turkish prosecutors arrested 10 retired admirals and ordered four more to surrender to sign the declaration supporting the 85-year-old maritime agreement governing the use of the Bosporus and Dardanelles on the grounds that ‘they were conspiring against constitutional order.
Officials said their statement, signed by more than 100 former high-ranking members of the navy, posed a direct challenge to the civilian government and referred to past interventions by the military.
The suspects were held at their homes in Ankara, Istanbul and Kocaeli, and were to be questioned by the capital’s attorney general’s office.
The duty of retired admirals, 104 of whom are meeting, is not to issue statements hinting at a political coup, Erdogan said on Monday.
It is by no means acceptable that 104 retired admirals make such an attempt in the middle of the night in a country whose history is full of coups and memorandums. We cannot call it freedom of speech.
The military staged three coups between 1960 and 1980 and, with a statement from the National Security Council, lobbied the first Islamist-led government out of power in 1997. Another coup was attempted in 2016.
Authorities last month approved a plan to develop a new 45 km (28 mile) waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean comparable to the Panama or Suez Canals, but this has raised questions about the Turkey’s commitment to the Montreux Convention.
The pact of 1936 aims to demilitarize the Black Sea by setting strict commercial and naval rules on the passage of the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles leading to the Mediterranean.
The retired admirals fear that the construction of new canals will lead Turkey to abandon the treaty, angering Russia and losing its neutrality in the volatile region.
We are of the opinion to refrain from any form of rhetoric or action that could make the Montreux Convention a subject of controversy, they said.
Erdogan said it was completely wrong to tie the proposed channel to the treaty.
We currently have no effort or intention to leave the Montreux Convention, he said.
But he added that the proposed channel will strengthen our sovereignty, hinting that Turkey may withdraw from the pact at a later date.
But if the need arises in the future, we could revise each convention to help our country improve.
Kanal Istanbul (Istanbul Canal) is the most ambitious of what Erdogan calls his crazy plans, which have seen him build new airports, bridges, roads and tunnels during his 18 years in power.
Turkey’s defense ministry said the admirals’ letter had no other purpose than to undermine our democracy.
They [the admirals] It should be known that our esteemed nation and its representatives will never allow this mentality, said presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Twitter.
The main Republican People’s Opposition Party said the government was seeking to distract from more critical issues, including a shocking 12% depreciation of the pound two weeks ago, and to record cases of the coronavirus daily. . Erdogan blamed the opposition for this statement.
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