His words come on the heels of a two-day debate over controversial remarks made by Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, whose statement was dismissed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). AK Party Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik criticized Şahin’s statements, in which he referred to the victims of the Uludere strike as “extras” for the PKK, describing Şahin’s approach to the issue as not “humane.”
The interior minister had earlier criticized the people of Uludere during a television program, saying the 34 civilians who were killed were smuggling goods from bordering Iraq when they were attacked. “It is not possible to get something right from [doing] something wrong. If they had been captured alive, they would have been put on trial on charges of smuggling but this incident has overshadowed the smuggling issue,” Şahin said. Speaking to journalists on Thursday before his departure from Astana, where he had been on an official visit, the prime minister said he did not approve of the interior minister’s words. Erdoğan also said the issue should be closed, noting that “keeping this issue on the agenda will further insult the grieving families. … Such statements will only work to strengthen those on the side of terrorism and in the center of terror.
… The [PKK] always likes it when there is propaganda in their favor, and I am ending this subject so we will not be instruments for their propaganda,” he said.
Later, speaking to journalists after his return from Kazakhstan on Thursday night, Erdoğan said the steps the government has taken to help victims of the botched Uludere air strike “amount to an apology,” adding that his government had already done what was required of them in this situation.
“It is obvious that that [the requested] apology has been realized by steps [our government has] taken,” Erdoğan told reporters upon his return from Kazakhstan on Thursday night. He also blasted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for what he called artificially keeping the issue on the agenda. He also criticized those who “make an effort to exploit” the incident, including Turkish media outlets.
Erdoğan also distanced himself from Şahin’s remarks and acknowledged that the authorities had made a mistake. But he complained about the ongoing debates, underlining that the region where the air strike happened is used by the PKK and that the smuggling activities conducted by the villagers should not be portrayed as legitimate.
On Dec. 28, 2011, Turkish fighter jets bombed a group of smugglers, mistaken for PKK members, on the Turkish-Iraqi border area near Uludere, sparking outrage in Turkey. The Turkish military stated that the warplanes had targeted the group based on intelligence that suggested a group of armed terrorists was headed towards the Turkish border to stage attacks on the military.
Erdoğan told reporters on Thursday night that the opposition was demanding that the Turkish government apologize, but he and his government had taken steps that were tantamount to an apology. He added that financial compensation had been paid to the families of the victims and that AK Party officials and their wives had also visited the families.
Erdoğan reiterated that a legal investigation of the incident was currently under way and that “there is nothing we can do besides this.”