He told journalists on a plane on Sunday bound for Turkey at the end of a 10-day visit to the US, that everyone, including military officers, was deeply saddened by the Uludere deaths. He said that, according to the constitution, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the judiciary fell outside the scope of jurisdiction of the DDK, but added that he wouldn't hesitate to assign the investigation to it, if it had the power to look into it.
In response to a question on whether the Turkish state was going to apologize for the deaths of 34 Kurds -- all civilians who made a living as smugglers in the region -- in the airstrike carried out by Turkish jets, Gül said: “What I am saying is something beyond an apology. What is an apology? An apology can be made, but I am expressing a much deeper pain so [how we feel] can be understood much better.”
He claimed that both the military and civilian administrators were shocked and saddened by the incident. “We were as upset as if this had happened to a close relative. The problem here is to ensure that this sadness is understood better by the citizens.”
The president said the main issue was the officials' failure to reflect the level of sincere sadness they feel. “As far as I know, all sorts of documents and information have reached the court. It is important that there is no obscuring [of evidence]. Many things have been covered up in our history. As you know, some [cold] cases are being reopened. Both the government and general staff want [Uludere to be properly investigated]. The chief of the general staff visited me after the incident and briefed me on all the details. He told me, ‘We are sending everything the court wants.'”
He said the TSK was the institution most clearly devastated by the airstrike.
The TSK maintains that the civilians were mistaken for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, but the identity of the individual or individuals who gave the exact orders is still being investigated.
Gül said: “The [airstrike] wasn’t done on purpose and if that conclusion has been reached, the biggest pain is felt by those who played a role in these [military] operations. It is out of the question that there was any deliberateness. But the judiciary will shed light on whether the procedures were properly followed, if there were any inadequacies or technical flows.”
BBP leader should speak out on threats
Gül also shared his opinion on a recent revelation from head of the Grand Unity Party (BBP) Mustafa Destici that he was being threatened by individuals to stop investigating the suspicious death of former BBP leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, who died in a helicopter crash while traveling during an election campaign in 2009. “If he is threatened, he should state this clearly. We invited everyone who knows about these issues at the General Staff. All evidence we have has been dispatched to prosecutors.”
The DDK is also investigating the helicopter crash that killed Yazıcıoğlu, during which military radars blacked out for a few seconds, adding to suspicions that the crash was the result of sabotage.
The president also shared his opinion on the Kurdish question, saying, “I have always said this is the biggest issue Turkey has to deal with. We should absolutely remove this problem from the country’s agenda. Then the prosperity level of our citizens will also increase. I can’t say how close we are to solving the problem. Sometimes I am optimistic and sometimes I lose my optimism.” He said the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had an important responsibility in finding a solution to the issue.
Armenia initiative not frozen
Gül also responded to a question on whether an initiative launched by the Turkish government in 2009 with a visit from the president to Yerevan to normalize the relations between the two countries has officially been abandoned. “I don’t think the Armenian initiative is dead. Both Turkey and the region need to save themselves from this dispute. We are working on the issue on a larger scale. There are both civilian and official organizations that we have assigned tasks to in this regard. The status quo is not helping Turkey, Armenia or Azerbaijan.”
He noted that the state of California is home to many people of Armenian descent, adding that there hadn’t been any negative incidents. “Armenians who have high positions in the city [of San Francisco] greeted us warmly and have been great hosts. They told us they were very pleased by our visit,” Gül said.