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Call for calm

February 25, 2010

Turkish political and military leaders met on Thursday to try and reduce tensions between the government and the armed forces over an alleged coup plot.

Military guards
Tensions remain high in TurkeyImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with top officials on Thursday to address tensions between the Islamist-rooted government and Turkey's secular military over an alleged coup plot in 2003.

After the three-hour talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Army Chief of Staff Ilker Basbug, Gul said the problems related to the alleged plot would be solved within Turkey's constitution.

"It was stressed that citizens can be sure that the problems on the agenda will be solved within the framework of the constitution and our laws during this process," said Gul in a statement. "Everyone must act responsibly to prevent harm to our institutions."

The meeting had gone "very well" Erdogan was quoted by the NTV news channel as saying.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Istanbul questioned the former chiefs of the air force and navy and a deputy head of the armed forces. The three top chiefs were among roughly 50 military officers detained on Monday by police as part of a probe into the alleged coup plot.

Operation Sledgehammer

Codenamed "Operation Sledgehammer," the alleged plot was believed to have been in the works in 2003, shortly after Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power.

The plotters purportedly planned to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece to force the downing of a Turkish jet, in order to discredit the AKP government.

The military, which is seen as the safeguard of Turkish secularism, has long been at odds with the AKP. The party has its roots in a former Islamist movement that was banned in the country.

The AKP's supporters say the military, which has ousted four governments since 1960, must stop meddling in politics.

Turkish War Academy
About 50 military officers were detained on MondayImage: AP

Despite reports that Thursday's meeting was successful, Turkish political scientist Cengiz Aktar told Deutsche Welle tensions would continue between the two sides.

"Turkey has just started its demilitarization process," Aktar said. "It will take a long time and I think we all should be very watchful and patient."

Silencing the opposition?

Critics of the AKP say the party is trying to discredit the armed forces under the cover of democratization and that it secretly has an Islamist agenda.

Turkish protests
The AKP has been accused of silencing its secular oppositionImage: AP

Turkish political columnist Nuray Mert said she has deep concerns about where the country is headed.

"There are many depressing examples of replacement of one kind of authoritarian regime by another kind or style of authoritarian regime," Mert said.

"I think this may be the case for Turkey, because after this government they don't give any hope for democratic understanding when it comes to criticism."

In recent months, police have arrested journalists, writers and academics who were known to be critical of the party.

Editor: Nancy Isenson