Turkey's Erdoğan slams rebels, hints at nuclear weapons procurement

(Updated with changes to lead and statements on nuclear weapons procurement)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday blasted renegades from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and expressed his frustration over what he said was a denial of nuclear warheads possessed by other nations.

“They say we can’t have nuclear tipped missiles though some have them. This, I can’t accept,” said Erdoğan.

Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

Pointing out that Turkey had been denied weapons deals by allied nations, the Turkish president said that this had led to the country producing its own weaponry.

"We asked for smart bombs from (U.S. President Barack) Obama, told him we needed them, but they didn't give them to us. We've asked (Obama's successor Donald) Trump as well, but nothing's come of it. So we're making them ourselves," Erdoğan said.

Turkey will also begin manufacturing a new type of armed drones in the near future, the Turkish president said.

Turkey's strongman also slammed the efforts of rebellious former AKP heavyweights were merely ‘’projects’’ to destroy the Islamist party, Erdoğan said.

‘’Those who are looking to damage Turkey’s ruling AKP for their political aspirations have in the end always suffered a defeat,’’ Erdoğan said during the dinner with AKP organisations in Ankara on Wednesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Sivas Congress, a milestone in the independence of the Turkish Republic.

The arrival of the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, at the Congress in 1919, confirming his position as chair of the executive committee of the national resistance, is considered a turning point in the formation of the Turkish Republic.

Erdoğan’s statement arrived amid increasing reports of a new conservative political movement led by former allies of the president, including former Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and former President Abdullah Gül.

Commentators in Turkey have speculated that the planned arrival by the year’s end of that movement and another led by a former AKP prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, could challenge the ruling party’s command of Turkey’s large conservative demographic after 17 years in power.

“Do not forget that all of these are projects,’’ The Turkish president said. Turkish press outlets interpreted the speech as a reference to the rebels' efforts to establish new parties.

Erdoğan vowed that Turkey would continue in its struggle despite increased scenarios against the country, referring to ‘’forces’’ which are looking to divide the country.

“We are declaring the integrity of our homeland in the face of those with separatist intentions. Our movement with the sovereignty of the national will against the centres of tutelage is a fundamental principle. These are the principles of the struggle for survival that we maintain within and outside of our borders,’’ Erdoğan said.

Turkey’s strongman also spoke of Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 system, a move which led Washington to eject Turkey from the programme to build F-35 advanced fighter jets and threaten Ankara with sanctions.

Erdoğan said that Turkey had already taken delivery of the first battery of the Russian S-400 missile systems in July and was in the process of procuring its second.

“This of course adds a completely different power to our defence system. Whatever we have done in the past 18 years has been for the people of Turkey,’’ the Turkish president said.

Erdoğan on Wednesday also called on the ruling AKP organisations to work hard ahead of the next elections slated for 2023 in order to improve on their poor performance in the March local elections, which saw the party lose five of Turkey’s most populous provinces.