Turkey admits export of rifles to Syria ‘for sports’
“What have been exported are ungrooved hunting rifle and blank firing gun kind of commodities. Other than that, any export by us is out of question,” Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said, still quoting the Customs and Commerce Ministry statement. Cihan photo
No weapons intended for war have been exported to Syria in 2013, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said, while acknowledging that weapons “without military uses” for use in sports activities have been exported to Syria, indirectly acknowledging a recent report by daily Hürriyet.
Yılmaz, however, declined to elaborate on the addressee of the imported weaponry.
Permission for exportation of all weapons from Turkey are issued by the Defense Ministry, Yılmaz said on the morning of Dec. 17, while delivering a speech at Parliament’s General Assembly during ongoing budget debates for the fiscal year 2014. According to a report recently published by the state-run Anadolu Agency, Yılmaz initially denied that his ministry had given permission for the exportation of any weapons to Syria.
“No war weapons have been exported to Syria. In 2013, no gun has gone from Turkey to Syria,” Yılmaz was quoted as saying in the report.
Anadolu Agency noted that Yılmaz was quoting a statement by the Customs and Trade Ministry. “What has been exported is ungrooved hunting rifles and blank firing guns. Other than that, any export by us is out of question,” he added.
47 tons of weaponry
Turkey has sent over 47 tons of weaponry to the Syrian rebels since June, according to documents filed by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) and also filed under the United Nations trade records, despite repeated denials from government ranks, daily Hürriyet reported over the weekend.
In September alone, 29 tons of military equipment was sent to opposition fighters, according to the same documentation.
The news report by Hürriyet had earlier noted that those pieces of military equipment were listed in the U.N.’s Comtrade database under code 9303: “Other firearms and similar devices that operate by the firing of an explosive charge, such as sporting shotguns and rifles, muzzle-loading firearms, revolvers, pistols and other devices designed to project only signal flares.”
The report also said the weapons in question were classified as non-military arms, according to the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) used by TÜİK.
“Ungrooved hunting rifle suitable for use for sports purposes and blank firing guns are not war weapons as suggested by the said report. This commodity’s exportation to Syria is not held subject to any limitation in line with the current international rules and regulations. They passed ‘the redline’ during customs inspections,” Yılmaz also said.
Turkey has repeatedly denied providing military assistance to the Syrian rebels, despite several reports claiming otherwise.
Back in August, opposition sources claimed that 400 tons of arms had been sent into Syria from Turkey to boost insurgent capabilities against Syrian government forces, after a suspected chemical weapons strike on rebellious suburbs of Damascus. The claims were strictly denied by Turkish diplomats at the time.
In November, the authorities seized nearly 1,000 rocket heads after searching a truck in the southern province of Adana. The local governor said 10 people had been detained in the raid, during which 935 rocket heads and 10 launching pads were seized. At the time, Adana Governor Hüseyin Avni Coş claimed that the operation proved Turkey was not supporting radical groups in Syria.