Turkey's anger at 'threatening' EU over claim accession talks could be halted

Government officials decry lack of support from West over attempted coup, as they accuse plotters of going to extraordinary lengths to infiltrate state institutions

Patrick Cockburn
Monday 25 July 2016 17:03 BST
Thousands have taken to the streets to support President Erdogan and his government in recent days
Thousands have taken to the streets to support President Erdogan and his government in recent days (Reuters)

Turkey is reacting angrily to what it considers to be tepid support from the EU and US in the aftermath of a failed coup that left hundreds dead and could have plunged the country into a civil war had the plotters achieved a little more success.

Foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that the EU should stop making “threatening statements” about blocking Turkey’s accession process. He was responding to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning that if Ankara introduced the death penalty the EU would stop the accession process immediately. Mr Juncker added that in any case Turkey was “in no position to become a member any time soon”.

Turks on all sides say they believe that the EU and US should have condemned the coup in more forthright terms, before warning the Turkish government against over-reacting in rounding up opponents in the wake of the coup. Arrest warrants were issued on Monday for 42 journalists suspected of being associated with movement of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, which is accused by government supporters of orchestrating the attempted military takeover – something he denies.

Some 31 acadmics have also been detained. Meanwhile, three soldiers who were allegedly part of 16-mber team which attacked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hotel on the night of the coup but found he had just left, have been arrested. State-run Turkish Airlines said it had also sacked 211 employees, citing their alleged links to to the Gulenists.

A fascinating insight into the lengths that the Gulenists are alleged to have gone to infiltrate state institutions was given by Mr Çavuşoğlu describing the penetration of his own ministry. He is quoted by the Hürriyet Daily News as telling reporters that in the Foreign Ministry the Gulenists had taken over control of the selection process in order to promote their own candidates. He said that “the selection process for the ministry was based on questions and translation from Turkish into English. But those belonging to this parallel gang [as the government calls the Gulenists] changed the selection system into a multiple choice test after getting control of the personnel department.”

Turkey failed coup attempt: How it unfolded

“They have introduced the hardest questions ever in the history of the ministry so that only their members who had been provided with the answers beforehand could pass the exam. None of them has the foreign language capability or capacity [to be a diplomat]. Now, can I work comfortably as the foreign minister before I fully clean these traitors from my ministry? Would you entrust the archive and secrets of the state to these people? I would not. I will do whatever is necessary within the law.”

The Gulenists are alleged to have targeted crucial parts of institutions for takeover and this was of use to them in concealing the planned coup up to the last moment. Interior minister Efkan Ala says that he had no information from police intelligence ahead of the 15 July attempt because the coup plotters had taken over the intelligence function. He said that “information should have been received from soldiers. Police should have received information as well. The fact that the MİT [National Intelligence Agency] received information some four to five hours ahead foiled the game for them. We had changed the head of gendarmerie intelligence but could not change others working inside in the unit. There was no intelligence received from there.”

Conspiracy theories are rife. One newspaper claimed on Monday that the coup bid was run by an American general. A columnist blamed the US, UK, Germany, France and even the Vatican for cooperating with the attempt to overthrow of the elected Turkish government. The most bizarre theory came from Ankara mayor Melih Gökçek who said Fethullah Gulen used genies to enslave people and bring them under his control.

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