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Erdogan’s allies attack former admirals after criticism of government




A senior aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clashed with a group of retired naval admirals after they criticized the government’s stance on a major international convention regulating ship traffic across the Turkish Straits.

Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun on Sunday accused the ex-soldiers of insinuations that the government should be overthrown, saying a public prosecutor was launching an investigation into the incident.

The group of former admirals said in a joint statement Saturday that it was a wrong government policy to question the future of the so-called Montreux Convention, saying the 1936 treaty is a guarantee of peace in the Black Sea, with which Turkey borders along with Russia and Ukraine.

“The statement has no use other than damaging democracy and the motivation and morale of the Turkish Armed Forces,” according to a statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry. “We believe that the Turkish justice system will take the necessary steps,” the ministry said.

The admirals issued their statement shortly after Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop suggested Erdogan had the power to withdraw from the treaty if he wished, although he later withdrew, saying he was trying to make a point about the president’s powers and not about specific policy agenda. His comments on the Montreux deal revived a discussion about the Istanbul Canal, Erdogan’s multibillion-dollar project to build a new strait in Istanbul to bypass the Bosphorus.

Erdogan says warships could bypass the 1936 treaty with the planned canal

Critics of Erdogan argue that the canal would be an environmental catastrophe and make Turkey’s largest city uninhabitable. Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections. The Convention limits accommodation in the Black Sea to 21 days for ships not belonging to coastal States and blocks the passage of all aircraft carriers.

(Statement by the Turkish Ministry of Defense added to the fourth graph.)

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