Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), a group whose deputies this weekend facilitated the release of a Turkish journalist jailed by the Syrian regime for months, of turning the journalist's freedom into a PR campaign for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking at his party's parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Erdoğan said, on the release of Turkish journalist Cüneyt Ünal: “His ordeal has ended, he has been freed. We learned this with great joy.” He noted, however, that another Turkish journalist jailed by the Syrian regime still has not been released.
On the CHP's role regarding Ünal's release, the prime minister said: “The CHP delegation's initiative can be seen in several different lights. It means something that before the imprisoned journalist even reached Turkey a picture of the CHP delegation with Assad in Damascus reached the country. It also means something that the supporting [pro-CHP] media ran stories praising Assad. It is sad to see that this incident was turned into a PR campaign for Assad. This photograph is yet another stain in the history of the CHP. The delegation posed with the chief tormentor, feeling no shame. Assad is sending messages to the Turkish public using the CHP. They used to say ‘to hell with Assad,' and now they are posing with him in the same picture. They will probably go together [to hell]. The issue is one between Turkey and the illegitimate regime in Syria. I invite the CHP to display a patriotic stance. Syria is not on a good track, they are headed toward a sectarian war. This is what we fear. The CHP administration should consider this wisely. I invite the CHP to side with the oppressed, not with dictators.”
He also said the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has advanced the Turkish Republic through real palpable reform instead of “just chanting slogans,” another criticism directed at the CHP. “The exports volume we had in 1924 can be reached in five hours now. This is how we protect the republic, by achieving the success of reaching the annual exports volume of 1924 in only five hours. We are showing with concrete examples the point to which we have brought Turkey. We waged our War of Independence amidst poverty and deprivation. This nation and its soldiers defended their motherland through a superhuman effort.”
The prime minister said that Turkey had in the past decade advanced significantly in terms of its national defense industry, citing such domestic defense projects as the domestically produced Altay tanks. “Before us, the tanks were modernized by Israel, but now it is all being done in Turkey. We hope we will never need to use these tanks, but to be able to live in peace we will continue to strengthen our defense industry.”