Turkey's Chief of Staff, General Necdet Ozel, replied on Tuesday to criticism by an opposition leader over an overnight, secret military operation inside war-torn Syria.
Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli told his party's parliamentary group meeting Tuesday that the Republic of Turkey has withdrawn from the country's land by carrying out an operation to relocate Suleyman Shah’s tomb and the 40 Turkish soldiers who guarded the territory.
He accused the President, Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of "cowardly abandoning a piece of Turkey's land."
"What is the homeland for you," Bahceli asked the Chief of Staff, saying Ozel had to explain which military necessities lay behind the operation.
"I do not want to enter into an argument with him because of his political character," Ozel said in a written statement. "I believe that he (Bahceli) does not have the right to criticize my sense of responsibility towards my homeland, nation, and flag, as I have served the Turkish nation and the national army for 46 years."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also replied Tuesday to the criticism of the opposition party leader, saying Bahceli was targeting the government and the Turkish Armed Forces with his slanders, lies and rude insults.
"I cannot keep silent against those attacks on me, the Prime Minister, and the Chief of Staff over the operation," Erdogan said.
He reiterated that Turkey did not abandon its exclave in Syria with Operation Shah Firat and that "those who are against the operation are indifferent to Turkey protecting the people's interests."
Turkey made a two-pronged operation late Saturday and brought the remains of Shah and sacred relics from the original exclave in Syria, some 37 kilometers away from the border, to Turkey.
Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. About 40 Turkish soldiers were guarding the tomb and the territory in Syria.
Now, another area in Syria, Ashme, close to the border with Turkey, will act as Shah’s temporary burial place.