World Bulletin / News Desk
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lashed out at the media and opposition over critical questions they raised in the wake of a deadly arsenal blast last week that left 25 soldiers dead.
“The stance displayed [by the media and the opposition] in the wake of every tragic incident unfortunately goes beyond the boundaries of criticism, or aims of shedding light on the incident. It is turning into a lynching campaign [against the government and relevant institutions],” Erdoğan said during his Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) expanded provincial chairmen meeting on Sunday.
“You see that one is accusing our chief of General Staff of incompetence. What lowness. … There cannot be such impudence,” he said.
“Such attempts that aim to decrease the motivation of those working in relevant institutions and to provoke the nation are irresponsible and low,” an angry Erdoğan continued.
Twenty-five soldiers were killed in a huge explosion and subsequent fire at an ammunition depot in the western province of Afyonkarahisar late on Wednesday. The explosion sent shockwaves across the country with its high death toll. Both military and civilian authorities are investigating the cause of the explosion, while initial reports have said the blast was due to the mishandling of hand grenades by officers who were bringing them into the depot.
Officials have so far ruled out terrorism and sabotage, saying the blast was an accident. The blast raised questions as to why young conscripts were doing the count instead of professional weapons experts.
Also on Saturday, Erdoğan reiterated a frequent message to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), asking its deputies to distance themselves from the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and seek solutions to the Kurdish question in Parliament or leave Parliament and join the PKK on the mountains.
“Those who wish to make politics on the mountains are free to go to the mountains. They have two choices: Either Kandil [the mountain range where the PKK leaders are settled] or Parliament. If they choose Parliament, they will engage in their struggle [for a solution to the Kurdish problem] in Parliament. They will find political interlocutors to sit with them at the same table to discuss [the Kurdish issue],” the prime minister said on Saturday.
Erdoğan's remarks came during a speech he delivered at the inauguration ceremony of a new tunnel and 20 intersections in İstanbul. He was directing criticism at the BDP for maintaining ties with the PKK.
The pro-Kurdish party is under fire for footage distributed to the press after a BDP deputy embraced a PKK militant and had a very friendly talk with him during a visit to the party's members in southeastern Turkey last month. In their statements that followed, a number of BDP deputies voiced support of their colleague, saying, “We do not see PKK members as terrorists.”
The prime minister said the venue to search for solutions to Turkey's problems is Parliament. “Those who embrace terrorists cannot work towards finding [solutions to people's problems] in Parliament. If they try to do it, they will not be respected,” he stated.
Addressing BDP deputy Gülten Kışanak, who embraced a PKK militant, Erdoğan said: “We all saw how you embraced Kandil's representative. My people also saw it. We will talk about your gesture [embrace] with my people. We will tell all my people -- including the Turks, the Kurds, the Laz, the Circassians, the Georgians and the Abkhazians -- about it. We have to show their [BDP members who have ties to the PKK] dirty faces to our people.”
There have been calls from within Turkey on BDP deputies to distance themselves from the militant PKK. The EU has on many occasions in the past called on the pro-Kurdish party to sever its ties with the militant group; however, the calls have gone unanswered by the BDP so far.