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POLITICS > Turkey seizes huge arms cache to Syria

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Ankara attempts to silence observers who say it is arming Syrian opposition militants, claiming to have seized arms destined for the Arab republic

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Hundreds of rifles, shotguns and bullets that were to be sent from Turkey to violence-plagued Syria have been seized over the last month by Turkish security forces, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı said yesterday.

Yazıcı’s statements came in response to national and international criticism on Turkey’s “reluctance” to control the arms flow to Syria and the accusation that Turkey is responsible for supplying arms to Syrian rebels.

Some 110 air guns, 51 shotguns, 86 rifle scopes, 86 rifle clips, 104 gun clips and 50,375 bullets were seized in five operations conducted in the last week of January, Yazıcı told daily Hürriyet.

Cars searched in the operation all carried Syrian plates.

There was a significant increase in the number of seized arms compared to 2012. A total of 16 shotguns, four automatic rifles, five hunting rifles, two grenades and 2,186 bullets were captured at the Syrian border last year, according to official data provided by Yazıcı.

Refuting claims that Turkey was arming the opposition to Damascus, Yazıcı said Turkey had been conducting controls on all 10 border gates to stop illegal arms-trafficking in the region and had been taking necessary measures to protect Turkish citizens’ lives and provide humanitarian help to the Syrian people, “who are under attack from the Bashar al-Assad regime.”

Questions regarding the controls of the gates were raised after a deadly blast at the Turkish border gate of Cilvegözü on Feb. 11 killed 14 civilians and wounded around 30 others.

Nearly 15 vehicles, some of them carrying humanitarian aid to the Syrians affected by the ongoing civil war in the country, were also damaged in the blast.

“Turkish citizens and Turkish-plated vehicles are forbidden to cross the Syrian border,” Yazıcı said in a televised interview with the private broadcaster CNNTürk yesterday.

However, the gates are wide open to Syrian people who are in need of humanitarian help, Yazıcı said.
He also revealed some details of the van used in the blast and the security measures in the area taken after the blast.

The Free Syrian Army’s control of the gates has created a lack of security, Yazıcı said, adding that Turkey was in control of 2,400 square meters of the 2,900-square-meter field between the Turkish custom complex and the Syrian border gate.

According to the minister, the $2.5 billion trade capacity between Turkey and Syria has fallen to $560 million since the civil war began in the country.

“Syrian people meet their needs from our country somehow, but it’s seen as arms-trafficking by some others,” he said. “But when we look at these numbers, we see that customs authority works really hard.”

February/14/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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Murat

2/14/2013 3:55:08 PM

Please... AKP or Turkey did not start or promote the Syrian disaster. Erdogan was in fact criticised heavily for not denouncing Assad earlier while he was still trying to pressure him to step aside. This trouble came to our door uninvited. It is to everyone's interest now to have Assad move away asap. That is what Turkey should strive to do. This is not Afghanistan, it is our door step! How much more restraint?

Bob Thrasher

2/14/2013 3:49:24 PM

Just to ensure your readers have the FACTS right...all the "rifles" the police are displaying in the picture...they are pellet rifles. They are useful for shooting rabbits, squirrels and rats, not people. These are not FIRE ARMS...they are airguns for sport shooting only!!!

David Cuthell

2/14/2013 3:09:20 PM

Air guns? Surely that is a typo. At the same time , the seizure is of no consequence and clearly done for PR purposes.

Blue Dotterel

2/14/2013 12:00:14 PM

Evidently, there is panic in the AKP over their Syrian debacle. Time to pretend that we had nothing to do with the massacre of the Syrian people. We are good cops, now, merely taking care of refugees. Will Turks buy it?

mr who

2/14/2013 11:02:01 AM

Turkey is completely neutral and the innocent neighbour gets your facts right!

Faruk Beisser

2/14/2013 9:25:37 AM

Statistics 101: Don't believe any statistic unless you have faked it yourself! And for press photos one can always arrange an array of weapons and claim whatever one wants!

joe Maddin

2/14/2013 2:18:15 AM

The bombing is clearly a retaliation from the armed rebels on the other side of the borders who were deprived from the lucrative business of reselling these weapons. Don't look too far... Turkey may have to step in to control also the Syrian territory: A new North Cyprus in the making?

Nageyec Conduz

2/14/2013 12:26:25 AM

If we believe what the minster is saying, then who is supplying the arms to the Free Syrian Army?
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