Turkey to appoint military chiefs

Tayyip Erdogan
Image caption Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chairs the annual meeting of the Supreme Military Council

The Turkish government has begun moves to appoint new commanders of the armed forces, with civilians for the first time in charge of the process.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has convened a four-day annual meeting to decide on military promotions.

It follows last week's resignations of the chief of the Turkish armed forces and army, navy and air force heads.

The officials were furious about the arrests of senior officers accused of plotting to undermine the government.

War of words

The military and the governing AK party have for the past two years been engaged in a war of words over allegations that parts of the military had been plotting a coup.

The BBC's correspondent in Turkey, Jonathan Head, says the contest between the armed forces and the party of Mr Erdogan, which has its roots in political Islam, has now come to a head and Mr Erdogan has won.

He says Mr Erdogan and his ally, President Abdullah Gul, now insist they will have the final say over who commands the military.

Image caption President Gul last week appointed General Necdet Ozel (pictured) as new army chief

The former chief of the Turkish armed forces, Isik Kosaner, portrayed his resignation last week as a protest at the jailing of military officers in a variety of court cases.

Gen Kosaner and his senior commanders quit just hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers, with carrying out an internet campaign to undermine the government.

But our correspondent says there have been no hints of the military intervention in politics, which has been a hallmark of modern Turkish history.

He says Mr Erdogan is instead likely to use the four-day promotions meeting to put more sympathetic officers into top positions, banishing the latent threat that the staunchly secular military has posed to his government during his eight years in office.

President Gul last week appointed General Necdet Ozel as the new army chief.

Gen Ozel is widely expected to be swiftly elevated to chief of the general staff in place of Gen Kosaner. Tradition dictates that only the head of the army can take over the top job.

Sledgehammer controversy

The case that prompted last week's military resignations is the latest element of the protracted "Sledgehammer" controversy - a coup plan allegedly presented at an army seminar in 2003.

It reportedly involved plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece, in order to spark political chaos and justify a military takeover.

Seventeen generals and admirals currently in line for promotion were among those jailed in the Sledgehammer prosecutions. Altogether nearly 200 officers were charged with conspiracy.

Twenty-eight servicemen will go on trial next month.

The defendants have argued that the plot was a just theoretical scenario to help them plan for potential political unrest.

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