Turkish soldiers march during a military parade marking the 91st anniversary of Victory Day in Istanbul on Aug. 30. Turkey will reduce compulsory military service from 15 months to 12 months beginning Jan. 1. (Ozan Kose / AFP)
ANKARA — Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government will reduce compulsory military service to 12 months next year, the deputy prime minister said Monday.
Around 70,000 conscripts are expected to be discharged early as a result of the decision, which the opposition has criticized as an election tactic ahead of next year’s polls.
“We have agreed to shorten the military service for conscripts from 15 to 12 months beginning from January 1, 2014,” Bulent Arinc told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier he had reached an agreement with the military to reduce the length of conscription, which is mandatory for all Turkish men older than 20.
Turkey’s army, the second largest in NATO, comprises around 750,000 men, of whom 500,000 are conscripts.
The country has been battling a Kurdish rebellion for self-rule in the southeast since 1984.
Turkey has entered negotiations with jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who declared a ceasefire in March, reviving hopes to end an insurgency that has cost about 45,000 lives.