Turkey: Erdogan warns Mitsotakis 'don't challenge me'
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The European Commission President and the leader of the European Council will be in Turkey for the last leg of Mr Michel’s trip around the EU and its neighbouring states. The pair, however, has been criticised for the move after the Turkish President detained 10 retired admirals for signing a statement supporting an 85-year-old maritime accord.
Wolfgang Munchau, Director of Eurointelligence, said the visit does not come at a good time for the EU leaders.
He tweeted: “Not sure this is a good time for a photo-op visit to Turkey by von der Leyen and Michel, just after Erdogan arrested 10 retired admirals over a political declaration.”
Responding to his comments, many took to Twitter to lambast the EU chiefs.
One user said: “Maybe the EC should set up a strategic analysis agency, or any analysis? Because it seems that it does not exist, because it is another unfortunate visit of them. For a geopolitical commission, this is too many bloopers.”
And another: “VdL is a disgrace.”
One Twitter user added: “They are going to Turkey? Unreal incompetence.”
And another: “Clueless pair, beyond clueless.”
President Erdogan said on Monday the document went beyond freedom of expression and implied a coup.
The statement, signed by more than a hundred former high-ranking navy personnel, voiced concern that the Montreux Convention could be debated or abandoned after having played an important role in Turkey’s security and past neutrality.
Government officials responded by accusing them of conspiring against the constitutional order, and Erdogan said the statement was unacceptable given Turkey’s history of military coups.
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“The duty of retired admirals is… not publishing statements about a political debate that includes an implication of a coup,” Erdogan told ministers and AK Party members.
The military staged three coups between 1960-1980 and, with a statement by the National Security Council, pressured the first Islamist-led government out of power in 1997. Another coup was attempted in 2016.
“In a country that has a history full of coups and statements, it is unacceptable for 104 retired admirals to attempt such an endeavour,” Mr Erdogan said, adding Turkey remained committed to the accord but could review it in the future.
The main opposition party said the government sought to distract from more critical issues, including a shock 12 percent lira depreciation two weeks ago, and record daily coronavirus cases.
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Mr Erdogan blamed the opposition for the statement.
Montreux, signed in 1936, gives Turkey control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits within its borders, and during peacetime guarantees access for civilian vessels. It also limits access to naval warships and governs foreign cargo ships.
The retired admirals defended the accord as strategically important for security, given Erdogan’s authority to withdraw from such pacts. Last month, the president suddenly ditched an international accord meant to prevent violence against women.
Prosecutors accuse the admirals of conspiring against state security, news website Haberturk said. State news agency Anadolu said four other suspects were called to report to police within three days as part of the probe.
The statement came as the government moves forward with plans to construct a massive canal connecting the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Sea of Marmara to the south, parallel to the Bosphorus.
A Turkish official has said Montreux would not cover the canal.
The secularist armed forces were once the dominant force in Turkey but Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have eroded their influence since coming to power in 2002.
Watching Ms von der Leyen and Mr Michel’s visit closely will of course be officials in Greece and Cyprus.
George Pagoulatos, head of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy think tank in Athens, told Politico: “They must not lose credibility and they must not allow Erdoğan to divide the EU.”
He added: “(The EU presidents)should not make commitments that are not fully dependent on how the Erdoğan government behaves.
“They should also seek not to alienate Turkish citizens who struggle for human rights and expect a positive agenda and [view] the visit by the EU leaders as an opportunity for positive change.”
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