Davutoglu vows disciplinary action against warring deputy PM, Ankara mayor

KONYA: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday dismissed reports of a rift between his government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and added that the disciplinary board of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will act against both Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek after a vicious war of words that followed Arinc’s criticism of Erdogan.

In an unprecedented conflict that exposed a bitter rift within AK Party, Gokcek has called for Arinc’s dismissal from the government after the deputy prime minister publicly responded to Erdogan over his criticism of the government handling of a settlement process with the Kurds. The confrontation expanded further on Monday when Arinc hit back at Gokcek, who called him a member of the “parallel structure” — an euphemism for Gulen movement on which Erdogan declared a war after a corruption scandal in December 2013 — saying Gokcek had “sat in the lap” of the “parallel structure” and “sold Ankara to this structure plot by plot.”

Davutoglu criticized both Arinc and Gokcek, saying their remarks were “wrong,” and were undermining the party discipline and violating “our political culture.”

“We will have the disciplinary mechanism of the party function and take the necessary disciplinary actions against whomever undermines the reputation of our party in the run up to the elections,” Davutoglu told reporters in Konya, in his first remarks on the dispute.

— Arinc admits to ‘mistake,’ but warns Gokcek against taking row to court

Hours after the prime minister’s statements, Arinc admitted that Davutoglu was right and that he had made a mistake, adding that he could not show restraint because his private life had been brought into the discussion, apparently referring to Gokcek’s claims that his daughter and son-in-law are from the “parallel structure.”

But he signaled defiance in his row with Gokcek, who has promised to sue him for his harsh remarks, saying he could go to court on the grounds that he was insulted but “I don’t know who will be harmed, the plaintiff or the defendant, because some questions will be asked there that I will need to answer.” Arinc was apparently referring to his veiled accusations of corruption against Gokcek.

Arinc had said on Monday that he will avoid speaking more about Gokcek in order not to harm his party’s image ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections. “But I will talk about some 100 issues related to Gokcek after June 7,” he said.

The AK Party heavyweight received flak from some AK Party officials after he startled observers on Saturday by calling Erdogan’s criticism of a planned “monitoring committee” to observe the peace talks between the Turkish state and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, “emotional” and promising that the government will go ahead with plans to establish such committee despite opposition from Erdogan.

In his remarks on Monday, Arinc appeared to take a step back on the disagreement with Erdogan, saying his job is to keep the president informed, not criticize him.

Davutoglu has remained silent on the dispute for days, leading to questions over the fate of the planned monitoring committee demanded by the Kurdish side.

Davutoglu declined to specifically address the question of a monitoring committee but said his government and the president are in agreement that the settlement process is a “strategic goal,” although he said different opinions might be voiced regarding the steps to be taken as part of the process.

He said the government and the president have had no communication problems since Erdogan left the prime ministry to become president seven months ago and that he and Erdogan had a family meeting on Monday evening. “If there are differing views, they can be discussed. But neither I nor the president would hesitate on protecting the political stability or preservation of this stable environment ahead of the elections.”