Turkey's bickering leaders move towards reconciliation

Published February 21st, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Turkey's leaders agreed Tuesday, February 20, to reconvene a top security meeting, one day after it was disrupted by an unprecedented row between the country's president and prime minister which sent the country's fragile stock market reeling. The new gathering of the country's top security chiefs was rescheduled for Monday next week, the Anatolia news agency reported. 


Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit had stormed out of the routine National Security Council meeting held on Monday this week following criticism by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer that his government's fight against corruption was not satisfactory. 


The argument, which saw Sezer and ministers exchanging harsh remarks over the government's anti-corruption drive and a copy of the constitution flying in the air, sparked fears of instability and sent Turkey's financial markets sharply down. 


Several hours after the row, the Istanbul stock exchange slumped 14.6 percent. It recovered slightly on Tuesday, rising by 0.9 percent to close at 8,768 points. 


The decision to reconvene the national security meeting came after Parliament Speaker Omer Izgi and MGK secretary-general Cumhur Asparuk, a high-ranking general, shuttled between Ecevit and Sezer in an apparent mission to soothe ruffled feathers. 


”There should not be anything so frigid between statesmen responsible for the country's administration. If there is ice in state affairs, then there will be a crisis," Izgi told reporters after a meeting with Ecevit. 


The move towards reconciliation came amid heavy criticism in the media that the two leaders were dragging Turkey towards economic malaise and insistent calls from non-governmental groups for a compromise. 


The surprise row came at a time when the markets were recovering from a severe liquidity crunch last November, which was barely contained with some $10 billion of rescue aid from the International Monetary Fund. 


Ecevit was the first to announce Tuesday that he had asked the National Security Council panel to arrange a meeting for next week without directly contacting Sezer. Asked about Sezer's charges that the government's anti-corruption struggle was insufficient, Ecevit sought to cool the debate. "Don't force me into this discussion. The claims are baseless. Let's not talk about them," the relaxed-looking prime minister said. 


That was a sharp contrast to the onslaught he launched against Sezer the previous day, when he accused the president of making "grave accusations" against him and declaring that a "grave crisis" had erupted, after storming out from Monday's meeting. 


Ecevit has had testy relations with Sezer ever since he took office last May. Tension between the presidency and the government rose particularly when Sezer rejected several cabinet decrees on the grounds that they were unconstitutional. Sezer, the former head of the constitutional court, was nominated for the presidency by Ecevit and his two coalition partners.  


In a message for investors on Tuesday, Ecevit stressed that Ankara would not deviate from its ambitious economic targets. “The government is determined to implement the program as it has done until now. Domestic and foreign circles should have no doubt about this," he said in a written statement. 


IMF's first deputy managing director Stanley Fischer, in Ankara for routine talks on the stand-by program, also lent support by saying that Turkish government appeared determined to push ahead with economic reforms. — (AFP, Ankara) 


© Agence France Presse 2001

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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