Middle East

Covert Military Plot for Turkish intervention into Syria leaked

middle eastTurkey: Audio leaksIn his first official statement since an audio recording of a top secret security meeting between senior Turkish officials was leaked on the internet, Turkish president Abdullah Gul said the leak exposed Turkey’s national security weaknesses.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the leaks as “villainous”, while foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the posting a “declaration of war.”

The anonymous posting on YouTube was an audio file with photographs of the officials involved. It showed that the meeting was spied on while top Turkish figures were discussing possible causes that Erdogan’s government may plot for any military intervention in Syria.

Calling the wiretapping of the meeting an act of espionage against the security of the state, Gul said ”the wiretapping of a meeting between the state’s most important bureaucratic heads is a huge act of insolence.”

Revealing that he has discussed the issue with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gul swore to expose those behind the plot and give them the heaviest possible punishment.

The conversation in the videotape was between FM Davutoglu, FM undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, head of intelligence agency Hakan Fidan and chief of staff Yasar Guler.

It appeared to center on a possible operation to secure the tomb of Suleiman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, in an area of northern Syria, largely controlled by gunmen.

Ankara regards the tomb as sovereign Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. About two dozen Turkish special forces soldiers permanently guard it.

Turkey threatened two weeks ago to retaliate for any attack on the tomb following clashes between militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda breakaway group, and rival opposition groups in the area, east of Aleppo near the Turkish border.

“An operation against ISIL has international legitimacy. We will define it as al Qaeda. There are no issues on the al Qaeda framework. When it comes to the Suleiman Shah tomb, it’s about the protection of national soil,” a voice presented as that of foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu says in the leaks.

When the discussion turns to the need to justify such an operation, the voice purportedly of Fidan says: “Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is, I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.”

The foreign ministry said it was natural for state officials to discuss defending Turkish territory.

A source in Erdogan’s office said the video sharing service – YouTube – was blocked as a precaution after the voice recordings created a “national security issue” and said it may lift the ban if YouTube agreed to remove the content.

Reacting to the YouTube ban in Turkey, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf in Washington said the United States opposes “any action that encroaches on the right of free speech or free expression.”

Harf said U.S. officials “continue to urge the Turkish government to unblock its citizens’ access now to YouTube, but also still to Twitter.”

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