Turkey with New Army Chief after Mass Military Resignations

World | July 30, 2011, Saturday // 11:44|  views

General Necdet Ozel is the new Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces and Chief of the General Staff. Photo by BGNES

Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, has appointed General Necdet Ozel as the new Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces.

The news was announced by BBC Saturday.

The move was triggered by the Friday resignation of the now former Chief of the Turkish Army, Isik Kosaner, and the resignations of the army, navy and air force heads.

Gen Ozel is also becoming Chief of the General Staff replacing General Kosaner, since in Turkey only the head of the army can take over the top job.

Gen Kosaner and his senior commanders quit just hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers, with plotting on the internet a campaign topple the government. A series of meetings between him and Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, failed to resolve their differences.

Investigations into those allegations, known as the "Sledgehammer" conspiracy - appear to be the root cause of today's resignations, says the BBC's correspondent in Istanbul, with the senior military wanting to go ahead with scheduled annual promotions for some of the officers implicated - and the government refusing.

The Supreme Military Council, which will decide on promotions, is scheduled for next week.

The "Sledgehammer" controversy, involving a coup plan, allegedly presented at an army seminar, began in 2003. It reportedly involved plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece, in order to spark political chaos and justify a military takeover.

Seventeen generals and admirals currently in line for promotion were among those jailed in the Sledgehammer prosecutions. Altogether nearly 200 officers were charged with conspiracy. The defendants have argued that the plot was a just theoretical scenario to help them plan for potential political unrest.

Gen Kosaner was appointed overall head of the Turkish armed forces just a year ago.

The Turkish government insists the army heads have asked to retire, but Gen Kosaner explains his resignation as a protest at the jailing of military officers in a variety of court cases.

The joint resignation of military chiefs is seen as unprecedented in Turkey, a country that saw a series of military coups between 1960 and 1980.

Turkey is a NATO member, but a spokesperson of the Alliance in Brussels has declined to comment on the resignations.

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Tags: Chief of the General Staff, Necdet Ozel, general, NATO, Turkish Armed Forces, Isik Kosaner, Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sledgehammer, Coup, plot, resignations, military, chief, army, turkey


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