First civilian named to head Turkey's powerful NSC

Friday, August 20, 2004

ANKARA Turkey has appointed the first civilian to direct its National Security Council.

Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has appointed a Foreign Ministry official to head the NSC. Mehmet Alpogan became the first civilian named secretary-general of the military-dominated panel which has been one of the strongest bodies in the government.

Alpogan's appointment became final on Aug. 17 when his selection was confirmed by Turkish President Ahmet Sezer. The appointment was recorded in the Official Gazette, and Alpogan was expected to enter the post by the end of September.

Officials said the appointment of Alpogan, currently Ankara's ambassador to Greece, marked a milestone in the government's campaign to gain control and oversight of the military. The process has been deemed a major demand of the European Union, which determined that the military maintained excessive control over Turkish life. Alpogan replaces Gen. Sukru Sarisik, who completed a one-year term, Middle East Newsline reported.

For his part, Alpogan expressed determination to contribute to Turkey's effort to join the EU. The EU was scheduled to consider Turkey's application in December 2004.

"We are undergoing a period in which important decisions concerning our country will be taken toward EU membership," Alpogan said. "In this context, we are determined to contribute to Turkey's EU bid."

The NSC has been reformed over the last year and was said to have lost its exclusive role over such issues as weapons purchases, military policy and the maintenance of a secular civil service and university system.

Officials expected Alpogan's appointment as secretary-general would hasten the weakening of the council, chaired by Erdogan.

"As you know, the NSC has been undergoing changes over the last year within the framework of a new law," Alpogan said. "So far, I have followed these developments as observer. I will see what we should do after I enter office."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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