General staff responds to criticisms about closeness to government

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Turkey’s General Staff has responded to widespread claims suggesting that it is too close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and is not adhering to its traditional values.

For years, the Turkish military has served as the guardian of a secular regime and has maintained its distance from Islamist politicians. The military, which toppled several democratically elected governments, forced a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative political party to resign on the grounds that there was rising fundamentalism in the country in 1997.

The General Staff’s response, which was published in the Hürriyet daily on Saturday, followed an announcement on Wednesday that military cadets and officers would now be able to wear headscarves.

The General Staff said it had not been consulted before the Defense Ministry made the announcement. Military sources told the daily that the General Staff did not have any role in the announcement of scarf freedom.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar had also drawn widespread criticism for accompanying President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on foreign visits. Military sources told the daily that such criticisms were ill-intentioned and that Akar had joined Erdoğan twice over the past six months during his foreign visits.

“It is very natural and necessary for the chief of general staff to make official visits with the president in line with the interests of the state,” the military sources said.

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