Turkey's armed forces today warned the country's bickering politicians to reach a consensus on measures to combat terrorism and economic chaos, raising the prospect of military intervention if the politicians failed to do so.
The warning, read over the government-controlled radio, comes at a time when an average of 300 people are losing their lives every month in political violence. In addition, in eastern Turkey, near the borders of Iraq and Iran, more than 5 million Kurds are agitating for independence.
The economic crisis, now in its third year, is growing worse. Inflation is running at 80 percent. Between 2 million and 3 million people are unemployed, Turkey's foreign exchange earnings cannot even cover its oil bills.
The nation's civilian government is virtually paralyzed by what the military statement called "sterile squabbling" and near-total lack of consensus among political leaders.
Twice in the last two decades the generals have intervened in politics to deal with what they condemned as the incompetence of the politicians. Both times the military leader voluntarily returned authority to civilians once its aims had been achieved.
Today's warning did not say what specific action the military will take if it is not heeded. Most political observers, however, believe it will again intervene if Turkey, a member of NATO, continues to slide into the near anarchy of political terrorism and economic bankruptcy.
"The Turkish armed forces have decided," today's announcement said, "to warn political parties that have been unable to bring a solution to the country's problems, failed to prevent anarchy and secessionism from [reaching] proportions threatening the country's integrity, are flirting with secessionist and destructive forces and which hold irreconcilable positions fueled by sterile squabbling.
"The developments in our region can explode into a war any minute," the warning continued, probably referring to incidents in Iran and Afghanistan. "At home, anarchists and secessionists are preparing for a genuprising.
"Under these conditions, it is of vital importance that the supreme parliament decides quickly on short- and long-term measures to bring about unity and togetherness and safeguard the citizens' security of life and property."
The generals stressed that they were looking for a consensus under the democratic system.
The document was submitted to Fahri Koruturk, the parliament's president, eight days ago. It was signed by Gen. Kenan Evren, the chief of the general staff and the commanders in chief of the Army, Navy, Air Force and police. They spent most of last month inspecting the troops and obviously conferring with their colleagues.
The signatories said that their "view" represented "a consensus of all generals and admirals."
The warning was released after Koruturk gave copies of Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, and Bulent Ecevit, the main opposition leader, during a 35-minute meeting this morning.
Other political leaders were not invited. Conspicuously absent were Necmettin Erbakan, chairman of the pro-Islamic National Salvation Party and Alparslan Turkes, leader of the ultra-rightist Nationalist Action Party. Both support Demirel's month-old minority government.
Turkes' party and its affiliates are believed responsible for much of the terrorism carried out by rightists. Erbakan's religious followers have been spurred into greater activity by the Islamic revolution in Iran.
In yet another example of violence believed to have been politically motivated, unidentified gunmen tonight shot and killed the director of Israel's El Al airline office in Istanbul, according to Turkish police sources.
Koruturk and the military apparently want Demirel and Ecevit to join forces to contend with terrorism and the economic crisis. But there was no indication today that a coalition would be formed.
Demirel, looking shaken and angry, said that "a very serious situation has come about." Nine years ago, the 55-year-old conservative politician was forced out of office by a similar statement from the military chief.
Demirel did not indicate whether he wished to stay on or resign but promised to make "a calm assessment of the situation."
Ecevit said the generals' "warning" had brought "a new dimension to the crisis in Turkey. He was ready to cooperate with Demirel, he said. He indicated, however, that he did not expect the prime minister to offer a coalition.