ISTANBUL (Associated Press) – A group of retired Turkish admirals came under fire on Sunday for issuing a statement that government officials link to Turkey’s history of military coups.
The 103 former officers in the Navy criticized a proposal that Turkey could withdraw from the international treaty regulating shipping across the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which connects the Mediterranean with the Black Sea.
Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay compared the signatories to the statement to “the whistling of cowards in a cemetery.” Numan Cartolos, deputy leader of Turkey’s ruling party, wrote on Twitter that they are “lovers of ancient Turkey who see themselves above the will of the nation.”
The possibility of leaving the 1936 Montreux Convention was raised earlier in the week during discussions about creating a shipping canal to northern Istanbul bypassing the Bosphorus.
“The fact that the withdrawal from the Montreux Convention was open for discussion as part of the talks on the Istanbul Canal and the authority to exit international treaties was met with concern,” the retired admirals said in a statement issued late on Saturday.
The group said: “We believe that any kind of statements and actions that would lead to discussions on the Montreux Convention, which occupies an important place in Turkey’s survival, must be refrained from.”
He compared the ruling party and government officials to the statements that accompanied previous military coups in Turkey. The Prosecutor General in Ankara has launched an investigation into the declaration of the admirals.
Turkey experienced coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980, and a military intervention in 1997 caused the resignation of a coalition government led by Islamists. In 2016, a failed coup killed more than 250 people.
Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote in a tweet on Twitter: “The statement of a group of retired military personnel about the period of the coups made them look ridiculous and pathetic.”
“Let them know that our beloved nation and its representatives will never allow this mentality and enthusiasm for (military) tutelage,” Kalin said.
The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the armed forces cannot be used “as a means of greed, ambition and personal goals for those who do not have any duties or responsibilities.”