Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Thursday to restructure the military and give it “fresh blood” as emergency rule took hold across the NATO member country after last week’s attempted coup.
Erdogan’s comments to Reuters in an interview his first since announcing a state of emergency late on Wednesday came as Turkey sought to assure its citizens and the outside world that the government was not turning its back on democracy and returning to the harsh repression of past regimes.
Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic U.S.-based cleric, of masterminding the plot against him, which crumbled early on Saturday.
In a crackdown on his suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.
Western countries are worried about instability and human rights in the country of 80 million, which plays an important part in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and in the European Union’s efforts to stem the flow of refugees from Syria.
Erdogan said the government’s Supreme Military Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defense minister and the chief of staff, would oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.
“They are all working together as to what might be done, and within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood,” Erdogan said.
Speaking at his palace in Ankara, which was targeted during the coup attempt, he said a new putsch was possible but would not be easy because authorities were now more vigilant.
“It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it,” Erdogan told Reuters.
Erdogan also said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months – a comment likely to spark concern among critics already fearful about the pace of his crackdown.
Emergency powers allow the government to take swift measures against supporters of the coup, in which more than 246 people were killed and over 2,000 wounded.
Emergency rule will also permit the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.
Germany called for the measure to end as quickly as possible, while an international lawyers’ group warned Turkey against using it to subvert the rule of law and human rights, pointing to allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in the mass roundup. -Reuters