Turkish PM tells rival to stop meddling

March 03, 2014 - 5:10:25 am
ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodogan yesterday called on Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time ally who has become a bitter foe, to stop meddling in the country’s politics.

“I was naive. I used my best endeavours to support him,” Erdogan told party loyalists at an election rally, referring to Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States.

Erdogan has blamed Gulen and his supporters in Turkey of launching a major corruption probe targeting key members of his inner circle that has shaken his government to the core ahead of key elections on March 30.

At the rally in the southwestern city of Isparta, Erdogan accused Gulen of interfering in Turkish politics and urged him to return to the country.

“Two years ago I asked him to return to Turkey. He did not. I ask him again. If you’re honest and sincere, stop stirring up this country,” he said.

The Gulen movement was a key backer of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) when it first came to power in 2002.

The two came together to tame the influence of Turkey’s once-powerful military which staged three coups since 1960 as the self-declared guardians of the secular state.

But the alliance shattered after December police raids which saw which dozens of Erdogan’s business and political allies detained on allegations of bribery in construction projects, gold smuggling and illicit trade with Iran.

Erdogan, who has dominated politics for 11 years, has repeatedly accused so-called Gulenists in the police and judiciary of being behind the graft probe and retaliated by sacking hundreds of police and prosecutors.

Mustafa Koc, chairman of Turkey’s biggest company Koc Holding, yesterday called on the government to calm financial markets worried about the corruption inquiry and denied he had sought to undermine Erdogan.

In a rare interview, Koc also told Hurriyet newspaper that in May 2013 he met with Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Islamic cleric whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the corruption scandal, but that they did not discuss “political designs”.

“There is this perception out there and to act like there is nothing or to call all of it complete lies does not seem right to me,” Koc said. “Markets have been tense since December 17 (and) would immediately respond positively to a reduction in this tension. Trust needs to be rebuilt at once.”