Reuters revives claims on Turkey's arms aid to Syrian rebels

Reuters repeats allegations that Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT sent trucks to aid Syrian opposition groups

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Reuters claimed on Thursday that Turkey helped deliver arms to Syrian opposition groups between late 2013 and early 2014.

Referring to a prosecutor and a court testimony report, Reuters claimed the four trucks belonging to the Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) were carrying weapons to the Syrian border, which were stopped by prosecutors who were later jailed on charges of allegedly violating Turkey’s national security law.

Turkey has been one of the most outspoken critics of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad, who refuses to step down after over four years of civil war in his country.

Largely peaceful demonstrations across the Syria in 2011 were followed by a number of defections from the Syrian army after soldiers were told to fire live ammunition on unarmed protesters. Since then over 200,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced in the country.

The Syria-bound MIT trucks were stopped in Turkey’s southern provinces of Adana and Hatay in January 2014 and were searched by local gendarmerie over claims that they were carrying arms shipments.

Four prosecutors were charged with issuing the search warrants concerning the trucks, and a former gendarmerie commander was arrested on charges of espionage on May 7.

A Twitter account, which is allegedly owned by a member of a outlawed hacker group named Tunay Senturk, was the first source to publish documents in January concern the alleged arms delivery.

According to the allegations in the documents, then Adana governor Huseyin Avni Cos was quoted as saying he would not allow the trucks to be searched and defend them at the risk of death because the journey of the trucks was ordered by the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking on a live TV programme on Feb. 6, Governor Cos said he went to court over the claims published on Twitter and denied the version of the incident described in the documents, saying that the trucks were never stopped in Adana.

The documents also cite allegations by truck drivers that they had carried similar shipments before, although these claims have not been independently verified.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry said the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid to the Syrian Turkmen community which lives under constant regime attacks in war-torn Syria.

According to claims published by the Associated Press (AP) on May 7, again citing an unnamed Turkish official, Turkey agreed to a deal with Saudi Arabia to unite the opposition groups in Syria - including the Nusra Front - to take down the Assad regime.

These claims were later denied in a separate news story published by AFP on May 8 by Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic who said that the Nusra Front was on Ankara's list of “prohibited terrorist organisations.”

Turkey is currently serving as a host site to train 5,000 allied Syrian opposition fighters as part of a US-led “train and equip” programme.

Turkey also hosts a joint operations room called the Military Operations Command for military and intelligence representatives from Western and Arab nations, from which military aid is sent to Western-backed groups in Syria.

Although the programme seems designed mainly to teach civilians how to use small arms as well as infantry tactics in the fight against ISIS, the Turkish government continues to insist international efforts should also be made to defeat the Assad regime, which Turkey argues the root cause of the existence of ISIS.

Among a list of Turkish proposals to solve the crisis is the establishment of a UN-enforced no-fly zone and buffer zone along its border with Syria to prevent barrel bomb attacks by the Assad regime on civilian populations, and to allow millions of displaced refugees in Turkey and elsewhere to return home.

TRTWorld and agencies