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Turkish president accuses former admirals of 'political coup'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused a number of retired admirals of “political coup” attempt after they condemned his proposed project, known as Canal Istanbul, which is planned to connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. 

"The duty of retired admirals -- 104 of whom come together -- is not to publish declarations that hint at a political coup," Erdogan said on Monday.

"In a country whose past is filled with coups, (another) attempt by a group of retired admirals can never be accepted," he added.

The remarks came after 104 retired admirals voiced concerns over the new canal’s construction in a letter on Saturday, saying it would result in Turkey abandoning the 1936 Montreux Convention -- a pact regulating shipping through the country's key waterways.

They said opening the 1936 Montreux Convention up to debate was "worrying" and that the agreement "best protects Turkish interests."

The possibility of Turkey’s withdrawal from the pact that regulates shipping through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea was raised after the approval last month of plans to develop a new 45-kilometer (28-mile) shipping canal to the north of Istanbul that would bypass the Bosphorus.

Erdogan said it was "completely wrong" to link the proposed canal to the treaty, adding that the new shipping lane "will reinforce our sovereignty."

"We don't have any intention to withdraw from Montreux now," Erdogan said.

"But if the need emerges in the future, we could revise every convention to help our country get better," he added.

On Monday, Turkey detained 10 retired admirals after they condemned Canal Istanbul. The Ankara chief public prosecutor's office said four other suspects were also called to report to Ankara police within three days.

The arrest warrants came after the retired admirals criticized Erdogan’s plans for the construction of the new canal.

The prosecutor launched an investigation into the retired admirals on suspicion of an "agreement to commit a crime against the state's security and constitutional order."

The retired admiral’s letter drew condemnation from top government officials who claimed it appears to be a call for a coup.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also said the letter was "reminiscent of coup times."

"They should know that our esteemed nation and its representatives will never allow this mentality," he tweeted.

Coups are a sensitive matter in Turkey which has seen the military stage three putsches between 1960 and 1980.

There was also an abortive coup against Erdogan's government in 2016, which Ankara blamed on followers of US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen in the military.

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