PM denies having prior information about Uludere attack

May 22, 2012, Tuesday/ 13:57:00/ MUSTAFA UNAL

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday refuted claims that his government had prior information about military plans to bomb a group of civilians on the Turkish-Iraqi border last December after they were mistaken for the terrorists of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

On Dec. 28, 2011, Turkish fighter jets bombed smugglers, believed to be PKK terrorists, in the Turkish-Iraqi border area near Uludere, sparking outrage in Turkey. The Turkish military stated that the warplanes had targeted the group based on intelligence that suggested a group of armed terrorists would be heading towards the Turkish border to stage attacks against the military. Claims in the media have suggested that the government had prior information about the attack.

Speaking to a group of Turkish journalists who accompanied him during his visit to Islamabad, Erdoğan said, “We had information about the operation just after it was carried out but we did not have any information about it beforehand.”

The prime minister also dismissed claims that the Turkish military fell into a trap allegedly set by the PKK or some other groups who would like to put the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in a difficult position with the Uludere attack, saying that the TSK carried out its task despite the fact that a mistake, which has since been confirmed by the authorities, was made.

He said the government had taken the necessary steps in the aftermath of the attack such as paying compensation to the families of the victims and that these should not go unnoticed just because the demands of the PKK have not been met.

The government earlier this year paid TL 123,000 in compensation to each family for the attack. It refuses to offer an apology for the attack saying that compensation could be interpreted as an apology from the state.

Erdoğan also commented to report in a US paper, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which reported last week that the civilian death toll set off alarms at the Pentagon because “it was a US Predator drone that spotted the men and pack animals.”

He said this news report was fabricated to place the current US administration in a difficult position.

“Certain media outlets support certain political views. This is the case in the US as well. The Wall Street Journal also supports a political view. It published this fabricated news report to place the current administration in a difficult position,” he said.

Erdoğan also added that since the region where the Uludere incident took place is an area struggling with terrorism, it is difficult for the TSK to know whether people are civilians or terrorists according to the images provided by drones.

Gov't will negotiate with strongest parties for constitution if necessary

The prime minister also dwelled on efforts to prepare a new and democratic constitution for Turkey and said if the four political parties represented in Parliament fail to reach a consensus on the constitution, the government will only negotiate with the more powerful parties to prepare the new constitution.

“We will do our best and will not be the party which withdraws from the negotiating table. If the four parties fail to reach a consensus among themselves, we will sit and talk to the parties which have more power to prepare the new constitution. This could be either the Republican People's Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). It is not possible to do this with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) due to the insufficient number of seats it holds in Parliament,” he explained.

Turkey's expectations for a long-awaited new civilian constitution have become stronger than ever since the June 12, 2011 parliamentary elections. All parties represented in Parliament vowed to draft a new constitution to replace the existing one, which was drafted under martial law following the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup and has long been criticized for failing to respond to today's need for expanded rights and freedoms. The ruling party vowed to draft a new constitution based on a broad consensus after its election victory in Parliament. A commission was established to carry out the work of drafting the constitution including representatives from all four parties represented in Parliament. Earlier this month the drafting process began focusing on the subject of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

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