Turkish Cabinet discusses Syria attacks, ‘paid’ military service

November 14, 2011, Monday/ 16:32:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convened Cabinet on Monday to discuss pressing issues dominating the country's agenda, including recent attacks against Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria and plans to allow potential draftees to pay a certain of money in lieu of performing compulsory military service.

The meeting began in the morning at the Prime Ministry building in Ankara. Among the issues discussed was the policy to followed against the neighboring country of Syria in the wake of attacks on the weekend on the Turkish embassy in Damascus and consulates in the cities of Aleppo and Latakia. Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tried to break into the Turkish embassy and other consulates on Saturday to denounce an Arab League decision to suspend Syria's membership over its crackdown of an eight-month uprising. Turkey is not a member of the league but had welcomed the decision.

Cabinet also discussed the details of the much-debated topic of the possible introduction of a military service exemption scheme. Compulsory military service has been a contentious issue in Turkey, which has been fighting terrorism for decades, and is mandatory for all healthy men in Turkey. The length of service depends on one's level of education as well as the military's needs at the time. Currently, university graduates with a four-year degree serve either for six months as a private or a year as a second lieutenant, depending on what is needed; those who do not have a four-year bachelor's degree are obliged to fulfill 15 months of military service.

Latest developments in the wake of two earthquakes that hit the eastern province of Van were also discussed during the Cabinet meeting. More than 600 people died after earthquakes of magnitude 7.2 and magnitude 5.6 hit the province on Oct. 23 and on Nov. 9, respectively.

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