EU and US urge restraint as dozens killed in Turkey coup attempt
The EU and US have urged Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to show restraint after a failed coup d’etat led to military clashes and dozens of deaths in Ankara and Istanbul.
Turkish officials told local media on Saturday (16 July) that at least 90 civilians and 104 military personnel lost their lives in overnight violence, with more than 1,000 people injured.
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The clashes included strikes by Erdogan-loyal F-16 jets against tanks that had taken up positions outside parliament in the capital city.
A bomb inside parliament killed 12 people. Soldiers from the military faction that tried to seize power reportedly also fired live ammunition at Erdogan-loyal crowds on a bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul and in Taksim square in the city centre.
Speaking from an EU-Asia summit in Mongolia the same day, EU Council leader Donald Tusk said: “Turkey is a key partner for the European Union. The EU fully supports the democratically elected government [of Erdogan], the institutions of the country and the rule of law”.
He called for a “swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order" and said the situation cannot be resolved by firepower alone.
The EU foreign service said "any escalation of violence involving civilians has to be avoided".
The White House said in a statement “all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed”.
The Nato military alliance, of which Turkey is a member, also called for "full respect" for Turkey's democratic institutions.
The shocking events unfolded late on Friday when tanks and soldiers rolled into Turkey’s two main cities, taking control of Istanbul’s main airport, bridges, public squares and some state-run media.
The rogue military group said in a statement that they did it "to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms".
It promised to create a “peace council” to rule the country and to draft a new constitution.
Erdogan was at the time on holiday in the seaside resort of Marmaris in south-west Turkey.
He said in a message broadcast by videophone on CNN-Turk from an unknown location: “I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports. There is no power higher than the power of the people”.
He added that the “chain of command has been violated. This is a step against the higher ranks, and the judiciary will swiftly respond to this attack.”
He then flew to Istanbul on Saturday morning, amid reports that the rogue soldiers had begun to surrender en masse to Erdogan-loyal crowds.
Addressing one gathering of people in the city, he said: “The government is in control … We are in charge and we will continue exercising our powers until the end. We will not abandon our country to these invaders.”
He later said on TV “It will end well… The most important thing right now is that millions of Turkish citizens are on the streets.”
His office added in a statement that the plotters would “pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey”, amid reports that more than 1,500 military personnel had been detained.
Turkey’s acting military chief, Umit Dundar, said on TV: “The coup attempt was rejected by the chain of command immediately. The people have taken to the streets and voiced their support for democracy”.
Speaking from exile in the US, Fethullah Gulen, an influential Islamic teacher who is hostile to Erdogan, said he “categorically” rejected accusations of his involvement in the events.
The attempted coup is the fifth such event in the country since 1960.
Erdogan’s party, the AKP, won recent elections in a mostly free and fair ballot.
But the president has in the past two years cracked down on opposition parties, journalists, independent judges and prosecutors in developments criticised by the EU.