Top military council set to meet after sweeping changes - UPDATED

The meeting comes only three days after former military chief Gen. Isik Kosaner, and three force commanders asked for retirement.

Top military council set to meet after sweeping changes - UPDATED

The Supreme Military Council (YAS) will meet under the chairmanship of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

The meeting comes only three days after former military chief Gen. Isik Kosaner, and three force commanders asked for retirement.

Kosaner stepped down on Friday along with the commanders of the army, navy and air force in protest at the detention of 250 officers on charges of conspiring against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

These four commanders will not be in attendance at the meeting.

President Abdullah Gul has denied any crisis and Erdogan's regular address to the nation on Saturday focused on plans for a new constitution in the EU-candidate country, touted as a democratic model for a region in turmoil.

The regular annual meeting will take place at the General Staff headquarters in Ankara.

More than 40 serving generals, almost a tenth of Turkey's senior commanders, are now under arrest, accused of various plots to bring down Erdogan's AK Party government.

The meeting will be attended by Acting Chief of General Staff and Land Forces Commander Gen. Necdet Ozel, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Aslan Guner, and some other commanders.

Commander of Turkish War Academies Gen. Bilgin Balanli will also not participate in the meeting as he is under arrest as a suspect in operation "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer), an alleged plot against the government.

The YAS, which meets twice yearly to decide key promotions, faces a challenge to fill top military posts as the government opposes some leading candidates while others are on trial accused of seeking to overthrow the government.

The Council will designate new force commanders and Gendarmerie Forces Commander, which became a vacant post after Gen. Necdet Ozel was appointed Acting Chief of General Staff and Land Forces Commander.

Former gendarmerie chief General Necdet Ozel was named ground forces head and overall acting chief after Kosaner quit, but will only take over the armed forces after the YAS, said Milliyet columnist Fikret Bila, who has close military ties.

Bila said the other three top posts will also remain vacant until YAS ends. With another top general in jail, five seats among the 14 top generals are set to be empty at the meeting.

"The most keenly awaited issue is who will be appointed to head the land forces command," Bila said, noting the government is seen opposing some of those in line for the post.

Potential candidate General Saldiray Berk is likely to be ruled out as a defendant in a trial related to the alleged coup-plot "Ergenekon" conspiracy.

President Gul is not keen on a general who refused to shake the hand of his headscarved wife, and one who refused to meet him when Berk was serving in northern Cyprus, media said.

Moreover, the Council will advance some colonels, admirals and general to a higher rank, appoint new generals and admirals to some military posts, and discuss undisciplined or unethical behaviors and retirement of officers during the meeting.

"Key candidates accused"

The commander of Turkey's military academies General Bilgin Balanli, previously in line to take over the air force, is in jail and among 200 officers charged with involvement over the alleged "Sledgehammer" coup plot.

The alleged plot, including plans to bomb historic mosques in Istanbul and trigger conflict with Greece, centres around a 2003 military seminar. Officers say it was just a war games exercise and that evidence against them has been fabricated.

The Aegean Army commander may also not attend as he is among 22 people facing arrest over claims the military set up anti-government websites - a more recent case which is viewed as contributing to the decision by the top brass to walk out.

In his farewell message on Friday, Kosaner said the jailing of 250 soldiers in the coup plot cases was legally unacceptable and that repeated bids to resolve the issue had failed.

"Despite their being no definitive judicial ruling against them, 14 jailed generals and admirals and 58 colonels ... have been punished in advance and lost their right to be assessed at this year's Supreme Military Council," Kosaner said.

This week's meeting coincides with start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and President Abdullah Gul is expected to hold a fast-breaking dinner for the YAS members at the Cankaya presidential palace in Ankara on Wednesday evening.

The YAS decisions will be presented to Gul for approval on Thursday. No major statements are expected until then.

YAS meeting will end on August 4. Council's decisions will be made public after the approval of President Abdullah Gul.



Last Mod: 31 Temmuz 2011, 16:54
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