Turkey denies arms shipment to Syria opposition
ANKARA - Agence France- Presse
In this Friday, June 15, 2012 file photo, a Free Syrian Army fighter fires his weapon during clashes with Syrian troops near Idlib, Syria. AP Photo
Ankara denied Friday allegations that it is shipping weapons to Syrian rebels across the border, after a report claimed Turkey was among nations arming rebels fighting the regime in Damascus.
"Turkey does not ship weapons to any neighbouring country, including Syria," foreign ministry spokesperson Selcuk Ünal said when asked whether Turkey was involved in an alleged arms delivery to Syrian rebels.
The New York Times newspaper reported Thursday that US intelligence operatives in Turkey were vetting the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels to ensure they do not fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda militants.
The Times cited unnamed US officials and Arab intelligence officials as saying the weapons were being paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and taken across the Turkish border by a shadowy opposition network.
Ünal rebuffed Turkey's alleged role in any weapons delivery web into Syria, saying such articles were based on unidentified sources.
The weapons cited in the story include automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some anti-tank weapons, which have allowed the rebels to fight the far superior forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey, an old ally of the Damascus regime, broke with Assad last year as popular demonstrations in Syria were stomped on by bloody clashes that have taken at least 14,400 lives in 16 months.
Turkey is currently home to 32,750 Syrian refugees, arriving particularly from northwestern Syria that is close to the common border, said Unal. It also provides shelter to 12 Syrian generals who defected from the Syrian army to join up the ranks of the Syrian rebels, he added.