17th May 2022

Turkish row over general's plot to frustrate EU accession

The Turkish army's designated chief of staff has been accused of attempts to frustrate Turkey's EU accession by plotting a series of attacks on Kurdish targets designed to spark a nationalist backlash.

A Turkish public prosecutor has accused general Yasar Buyukanit, head of the Turkish land forces, of orchestrating the hand grenade attack on a Kurdish bookshop in the town of Semdinli in the south east of the country, according to media reports.

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Parts of the accusations of the prosecutor were leaked to Turkish papers over the weekend.

The prosecutor, based in the the city of Van, has accused general Buyukanit of being behind the attack, which the prosecutor suspects was carried out by Turkish security forces.

The attack, carried out in November, killed one person and injured six.

A list of 105 potential Kurdish targets including the bookshop was found in a police van after the attack.

According to the prosecutor's accusations, the ultimate aim of the planned series of attacks was to stir up unrest among Kurds, sparking a Turkish nationalist reaction which would frustrate Turkey’s EU membership bid.

Mr Buyukanit has been designated as the next chief of staff of the Turkish army from August.

Parts of the Turkish army are said to be unhappy with the prospect of EU accession as Brussels is forcing a restriction of the strong role of the Turkish military in politics and society.

The affair has sparked a political row in Turkey, with the opposition party CHP claiming that the ruling islamist AKP party is behind the accusations in a bid to break the power of the secularist army.

The CHP accuses the AKP of "a coup against the military," Die Welt writes.

Reuters reports that the current chief of staff of the army Hilmi Ozkok has held emergency talks with prime minister Tayyip Erdogan this week, with Mr Erdogan calling for calm.

Keep reform pace, says EU

Meanwhile, Turkey was told by EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn on Wednesday (8 March) to step up its reforms in preparation for possible EU membership.

"It is indispensable that reforms will be continued...[and] duly and effectively implemented on the ground so that the rule of law becomes an everyday reality in all walks of life," he said according to AFP.

Mr Rehn made his remarks after talks in Vienna between Turkey and the so-called EU troika consisting of the European Commission, the Austrian EU presidency and the next EU presidency, Finland.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul reassured his EU counterparts by stating "We are not doing these reforms under pressure, we are doing them because the Turkish population deserves them."

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik expressed "clear support and a positive estimate of the government's reform work."

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