Tue, May 08, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Erdogan’s campaign vows more cross-border strikes

AFP, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unfurl a banner with his image as he delivers a speech presenting his People’s Alliance election strategy in Istanbul on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed to launch further cross-border offensives against terror groups as he revealed his ruling party’s manifesto ahead of snap elections on June 24.

Erdogan made a series of promises about the economy and uniting the country during a rally in Istanbul attended by several thousand people.

The Turkish head of state last month announced snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 to the surprise of Turkish politics observers.

Experts say Erdogan wants to exploit the rising nationalist feeling after an operation in Syria this year and to hold polls before the economy worsens.

After June 24, Turkey is to implement constitutional changes approved in an April last year referendum to create an executive presidency, which expands the head of state’s powers.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 and has since remained the country’s biggest political force.

“June 24 is going to be a milestone for Turkey,” Erdogan said.

The president said Turkey would launch cross-border offensives, similar to previous military operations in Syria, adding that Turkey would never give up its fight against extremists.

“Turkey will launch additional offensives like Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations to clear its border of terror organizations in the new era,” Erdogan said.

Operation Euphrates Shield took place from August 2016 to March last year against the Islamic State group, while the Olive Branch offensive targeted the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in its western enclave of Afrin earlier this year.

Erdogan did not give any details on where the next operation could take place although there has been speculation that an offensive would be launched in northern Iraq.

During his 70-minute speech, Erdogan discussed a range of domestic and foreign issues.

He repeated Turkey’s commitment to joining the EU despite prior tensions with several EU member states and long-stalled membership negotiations.

Erdogan’s speech was broadcast live on all the main television channels, but the main opposition, Republican People’s Party candidate Muharrem Ince, chosen two days earlier, hit back at the “media embargo” against the opposition.

“The TV channels which even broadcast AKP’s district congresses live did not broadcast our splendid rally live,” Ince said on Twitter earlier on Sunday, blaming Erdogan. “We will go on to break this media order. If the media embargo against the opposition at the orders of the palace continues, we will hold our rallies outside TV channels.”

In other developments, the trial of US pastor Andrew Brunson continued in Turkey on Monday.

Brunson, leader of a small Protestant Christian church in the city of Izmir named Yeniden Dirilis (Resurrection) was detained in October 2016 and faces up to 35 years in jail on terror and spy charges.

Prosecutors accuse him of activities on behalf of the group led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen — who Ankara says is behind a failed 2016 coup — and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Brunson, who has lived and worked in Turkey for over two decades, is also accused of espionage for political or military purposes.

He rejected all the accusations directed against him last month during the first hearing in the town of Aliaga, north of Izmir.

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