Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has claimed that the attempted coup earlier this month was aimed at destabilizing the country and triggering a political crisis.
“The purpose of this coup was not to rule, but to drag Turkey into chaos,” Kurtulmuş said.
“By killing our president in Marmaris and creating a political crisis, by assuring the start of a civil war, they wanted to prepare Turkey for a foreign invasion.”
The deputy PM added that members of FETO, a terrorist organisation which the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt may have heavily infiltrated the country’s governing AK Party.
Speaking in an interview which was published on Saturday by the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Kurtulmuş said that it is possible the party may be hosting FETO agents “because for many years there have been people who were members of this organisation within the AKP establishment.”
FETO, which was officially placed on Turkey’s terror list in May, is accused of directing members embedded deep in the Turkish military to carry out the coup.
The head of the organisation, US-based Fethullah Gulen, has denied involvement in the coup attempt, but evidence slowly being gathered by arrested coup plotters suggests the 75-year-old, who has been living in self-imposed exile since 1999, was behind the plot.
Since the coup attempt collapsed thanks to mass anti-coup demonstrations across the country, tens of thousands of alleged Gulen followers have been suspended or fired from state institutions, including the army and the judiciary.
“They have had deputies. They have had some ministers. These would be considered as well and just like how they are being cleaned from all places of the state, of course the necessary things would be done at the AKP,” Kurtulmuş told Hurriyet.
“This process already started following Dec. 17-25,” the deputy prime minister added, referring to a previous attempt to topple the Turkish government in December 2013 through a corruption scandal, again allegedly instigated by Gulen sympathisers in the judiciary.
Having once enjoyed a good relationship with the AK Party under former prime minister-now-president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was first elected in 2003, Gulen affiliates quickly increased in influence across a number of Turkish state institutions, particularly in the police force and judiciary.
Gulenist prosecutors were pivotal in the crackdown on Ergenekon, an underground group consisting of senior army officials and influential individuals including journalists, who Erdogan claimed were plotting to trigger a false-flag war with neighbouring Greece in order to carry out a military coup against the Turkish government.
But differences between Gulen and Erdogan eventually surfaced when Gulen condemned the sending of the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza in May 2010. Gulen argued Israeli permission should have been sought.
A power struggle emerged for control of the Turkish intelligence service MIT, with pro-Gulenist members of the judiciary attempting to indict spy chief Hakan Fidan, who is known to be an Erdogan loyalist.
In late 2013, Erdogan announced plans to close down Gulen-run tuition centres and transform them into private schools. The Gulen Movement, which depends on their centres for a huge bulk of their income, denounced the plan, claiming they do not have the ability to make the transformation in time and would therefore have to shut them down.
In December 2013, Istanbul prosecutor Zekeriya Oz, who is said to belong to the Gulen Movement, ordered the arrest of Erdogan loyalists, including top businessmen and bureaucrats, to face up to allegations of corruption and dodging sanctions on Iran.
On December 25, 2013, a team from the Turkish gendarmerie stopped a truck in southeastern Turkey which was allegedly transporting weapons to Syrian rebel groups across the border. The Turkish government denies the allegations and says the truck was delivering humanitarian aid to ethnic Turkmens in northern Syria.
Subsequently, a series of classified audio recordings taken from wiretapped conversations between government ministers were shared on the internet. The Turkish government blamed Gulenist infiltrators for the leaks.
Erdogan, who has accused Gulen of running a “parallel state” seeking to seize power in Turkey through undemocratic means, has since led a purge on the police force and judiciary, demoting officials deemed loyal to Gulen.
Denouncing the Gulen Movement, Kurtulmuş said they were nothing more than “gang that has desire to rule” that allies with “whoever is powerful.”
Turkey has pointed the finger at unnamed foreign powers for orchestrating the coup, but is yet to accuse a specific country.
Asked whether the Turkish government will reveal who supported the coup attempt, Kurtulmuş said, “At present we have no certain knowledge that any nation supported the coup, but we will carefully investigate the external links of this attempt.”
“Whatever the outcome, we will share it with the public.”
Common rhetoric being heard in Turkey at the moment indicates that the US may be behind the coup. The US has urged the Turkish government to abstain from making statements along these lines, warning that doing so could put Washington’s ties with Ankara at risk.
Turkey has officially requested Gulen’s extradition from the US, but the US said it would only consider the request if Turkey provides substantial evidence to back its claim.