On Dec. 1, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the claims made in the cables leaked by WikiLeaks—specifically that from then-U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman that alleges the PM has eight Swiss bank accounts—reported Turkish sources. Erdogan, in what some describe as a “furious” rant, said the U.S. administration needed to take disciplinary action against those diplomats that “slandered” him.
“This is the United States’ problem, not ours… Those who have slandered us will be crushed under these claims, will be finished, and will disappear,” he was quoted as saying, adding that U.S. officials “pass on lies and incorrect interpretations.”
Erdogan then admonished the media for reporting on the WikiLeaks files, saying it was the duty of an “honorable” media outlet to “first ask the person these slanders are made against” about the claims. Reporters should first ask, for instance, “Esteemed prime minister, is this true?” If the accused denies the claims, the media should refrain from reporting them; otherwise, the reporting is “immoral.”
Meanwhile, during a press conference earlier in the week, the secretary general of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Suheyl Batum, reportedly said the leaked documents “are as important as the Watergate scandal for Turkey. We will certainly be following it. Although some are trying to gloss over the issues, we, as the CHP, will work to expose them as they are of crucial importance for Turkish democracy.” The CHP, according to Edelman, are a “bunch of elitist ankle-biters.”
In his comments made on Dec. 1, Erdogan called the opposition “opportunists” and “slanderers,” and added, “I do not have a penny in Swiss banks. If you prove it, I will immediately write a letter of resignation. But if the opposite turns out to be true, will you resign as well?”
According to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy leader and spokesman, Huseyin Celik, Israel could be behind the leaked cables. “One has to look at which countries are pleased with these. Israel is very pleased. Israel has been making statements for days, even before the release of these documents,” Celik was quoted as saying.
“Documents were released and they immediately said, ‘Israel will not suffer from this.’ How did they know that,” said Celik, adding that “Turkey, with its efficiency and foreign policy, has treaded on someone’s fields. The prime minister is known as a dominant leader not only in Turkey but also in the world.”
People on the Turkish street seem to take the WikiLeak files much less seriously, but believe it to be a U.S. ruse. Hurriyet Daily’s Erisa Dautaj Sernerdem interviewed strangers on the streets in Istanbul on Monday, and received varied responses—with calling it a U.S. “game” and reaction to the economic crisis, to an attempt to deter foreign investors from Turkey’s markets.