Turkey puts civilian over its National Security Council, reduces role

Friday, December 3, 2004

ANKARA Turkey has turned the National Security Council into a civilian-headed advisory body on defense and military issues.

Officials said the NSC would be limited to providing assessments on military and security threats to Turkey. They said the council has turned from an executive panel dominated by the military to an advisory body meant to aid the Defense Ministry and prime minister's office.

"It is true that some of our functions have been transferred," NSC secretary-general Yigit Alpdogan said. "We are not an executive body. We are a consultative institution."

Since 2001, the council has lost its authority to implement military and security decisions, officials said. The council was expanded to ensure that the military no longer dominated the proceedings.

Only 15 of the 294 employees at the NSC General Secretariat are military officers. In 2003, Ankara transferred NSC authority to the government and the panel's decisions were no longer deemed a priority. Under the new regulations, Turkey's deputy prime minister, now Abdullah Gul, was given the authority to implement NSC decisions.

Since August 2004, the NSC has been administered by a civilian.

Alpdogan, whose first deputy is a military officer, was a career Turkish diplomat and his appointment reflected Ankara's effort to operate in accordance with European Union standards. The EU plans to hold a summit on Dec. 17 expected to set a date for accession talks with Turkey.

"The status of the military and civilian authority in Turkey is set and the country now adheres to European Union standards," Alpdogan said. "If it hadn't, we wouldn't have progressed so far in our EU membership process."

On Nov. 30, the NSC provided details of its new structure in the first news conference held by the panel since its establishment in 1933. The council meets twice a month and comprises the president, prime minister and the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, interior and justice.

On the military side, the council contains the chief of staff as well as the commanders of the army, navy, air force and gendarmerie.

Alpdogan said the council has been revising Turkey's national security doctrine in the first such effort since 2001. Alpdogan said the updated doctrine would be completed in 2005.

"We will continue to study internal and external threats to the country's security," Alpdogan said. "It is true that we have become a think-tank, but a limited one, since our findings are not for the public but for the NSC alone."

Erdogan also heads the Supreme Military Council, which reviews domestic and external threats to Turkey and monitors the nation's armed forces. In a meeting on Nov. 30, the council discussed the threat of Islamic insurgency groups and dismissed eight soldiers for links with Islamic fundamentalists. =

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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