The chairman of the main opposition Republican People's party (CHP), Kemal kılıçdaroğlu, has directed harsh criticism at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), saying the policy the latter has pursued on the crisis in Syria serves the interests of the terrorist al-Qaeda and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Speaking at a press conference held on Sunday to mark the 89th anniversary of the foundation of the main opposition party, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the AK Party and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- who is also the prime minister, for its policies on the Syria issue. He asked the prime minister what led him to break his ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying, “You had a [summer] vacation with Assad. And what happened to make you an enemy of your brother Assad?”
The Turkish government initially cultivated good relations with the Assad regime, but Erdoğan has become one of Assad's harshest critics in the face of the Syrian government's continued bloody campaign against civilians and opposition forces.
“The AK Party's Syria policy is serving the purpose of al-Qaeda militants and the PKK terrorist organization. They [AK Party members] are not aware of it. They say we are pro-Baathist. It is [Erdoğan] himself who had a vacation with Assad and called him ‘my brother.' Whatever Assad is doing in Syria is also being done in Turkey by Erdoğan,” Kılıçdaroğlu stated.
The CHP leader also spoke about a huge explosion at an ammunition depot in the western province of Afyonkarahisar last week in which 25 soldiers were killed. He said the CHP would follow developments related to the explosion until all dimensions of the incident are brought to light. “Our people have not been provided satisfactory information about the [cause] of the explosion. The chief of general staff only said everything was open and clear. If everything is so clear, so why does he not make a statement? The martyrs belong to our people and they are our sons. So, the military chief should explain everything related to the blast,” Kılıçdaroğlu noted.
Initial reports claimed the explosion was due to the mishandling of hand grenades by officers. State officials have said the exact cause will be determined once separate investigations by military and civilian prosecutors are completed.
Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel for receiving gifts from the Afyonkarahisar governor when he paid a visit to the Governor's Office to be informed about the deadly blast. “Twenty-five sons lost their lives in an unbelievable way. What were they [Özel and the governor] celebrating?” the CHP leader asked.
Çiçek criticizes General Staff for denying entry to CHP deputies
Also on Sunday, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek responded to reporters' questions about a General Staff decision not to allow deputies of the main opposition CHP inside the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) in Ankara.
A group of CHP deputies, led by İsa Gök, told the press on Saturday that they had wanted to visit at GATA the relatives of soldiers who had been killed in the Afyonkarahisar explosion, but they called by the General Staff and told they would not be allowed inside the GATA building for the visit. GATA is run by the General Staff and mainly hosts patients from the military and their relatives.
The officers who called from the General Staff told the deputies that the procedures of GATA prevent the deputies from being allowed inside the academy, according to Gök.
“Those who wanted to visit the martyrs' relatives are deputies of our people. I do not believe their entry to GATA was denied due to procedural reasons,” Çiçek told reporters.