- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Turkish army has warned the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the country’s police force has to be “cleaned up” to prevent further terrorist violence.

Diplomats interpret the warning as a sign of major concern by the military after the recent suicide bomb attacks that left at least 52 persons dead and about 800 injured, shattering the country’s precarious peace and putting an exceptional burden on the government.

Senior Turkish generals fear that Mr. Erdogan’s Cabinet is ill-equipped to resist the pressure of Islamic fundamentalists, who apparently consider Turkey “an ideal venue” for terrorist attacks.

According to one report, the military is worried about the possibility of “leaks” by Islamic policemen to terrorist organizations, ranging from Islamic fanatics to Kurdish nationalists. An unnamed senior general has been quoted as saying “the police needs to be cleaned up.”

Apparently, Gen. Sukru Sariisik, chairman of the powerful National Security Council, also suggested that some antiterrorist laws scrapped recently to conform to European Union requirements, should be restored to make the security apparatus more effective.

The bombings of two synagogues, a British bank and the British Consulate in Istanbul have caused concern about the future of Turkey’s application for EU membership. Turkey first applied to join the predominantly Christian-nation club in 1999, but talks on its application are due next year, so far without a date.

Despite hardly veiled opposition of some of its members, the European Union has assured the Turkish government that, at least at this stage, its candidacy has not been affected.

“The process [of application] should be further pursued and enforced,” said EU spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori. “The EU will do everything possible to support Turkey in that endeavor.”

Only 5 percent of Turkey’s territory and 10 percent of its population of 66 million are on the European side of the Bosporus, the strait separating Europe from Asia. Politically, Turkey has been considered a European power since the beginning of the 20th century.

The Turkish army considers itself to be the guardian of the Turkish republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The last major military intervention against the political system took place in 1980, after years of terror that paralyzed much of the country’s life. In 1997, the military pressured into resignation a pro-Islamic government headed by Necmettin Erbakan.

According to diplomatic assessments, the recent explosion of terror threatens Turkey’s economic-recovery program, damaging lucrative tourism and causing withdrawal of some foreign companies working in the country.

The military appeared particularly concerned about the porous frontiers with Iran and Iraq and the state of the country’s restive Kurdish minority.

Western reports describe the Kurdish areas in the country’s south as “an ideal ground for suicide recruits ready to die for Islam.”


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