ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused 104 retired admirals of “hinting at a political coup” by criticising his plans for a new canal linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Turkish prosecutors detained 10 of the admirals on Monday after they published an open letter critical of the proposed canal over the weekend.
“The duty of retired admirals — 104 of whom come together — is not to publish declarations that hint at a political coup,” Erdogan said. “In a country whose past is filled with coups, (another) attempt by a group of retired admirals can never be accepted,” he said.
Officials last month approved a project to develop a new 45km shipping lane comparable to the Panama or Suez canals but it has raised questions over Turkey’s commitment to the Montreux Convention.
The 1936 pact is aimed at demilitarising the Black Sea by setting strict commercial and naval rules on passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.
The retired admirals worry that the new canal’s construction would result in Turkey abandoning the 1936 treaty, angering Russia and losing its neutrality in the volatile region. Erdogan said it was “completely wrong” to link the proposed canal to the treaty.