Admirals’ arrest creates complications ahead of EU leaders’ visit

The arrest of ten former Turkish admirals on Monday on allegations of threatening a coup against the government creates new turmoil ahead of a visit by top European Union leaders to Turkey.

On Monday, Arab News reported that the detentions contributed to new domestic problems in Turkey that may come up in discussions on Tuesday when European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen arrive on Tuesday. The trip is seen as an opportunity for Erdogan to make his case for improving relations with the E.U after years of strain.

One European official speaking on condition of anonymity to Arab News said that the success of the talks depended on the Turkish president. “If Erdogan does not show himself to be cooperative then everything will be blocked,” the official said. 

On Sunday, 103 retired Turkish admirals released a letter that criticised any talk of leaving the 1936 Montreux Convention that provides Turkey command over the straits leading into and out of the Black Sea. In addition, they were critical of what they saw as a creeping Islamisation of the historically secular military.

The same day the declaration went public, the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office announced an investigation into its authors. Only one day later Turkish police detained 10 admirals and ordered four others to turn themselves in within three days due to their advanced ages. 

Among those arrested was former rear admiral Cem Gurdeniz, the father of the “Blue Homeland” doctrine which analysts believe drive Turkish foreign policy in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. There Turkey is locked in a dispute with E.U members Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders and access to natural gas reserves there.