AKP vows ‘meaningful support’ for Syrian Turkmens will continue
Ömer Çelik, a spokesperson for the AKP, speaking to reporters on Nov. 25, 2015. AA PhotoA senior member of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has underlined the government’s determination to supply “meaningful and qualitative” support to the Turkmens in Syria that will ensure their “material and moral security.”
“Everybody should know that Turkey’s support for the Turkmens is meaningful and qualitative,” Ömer Çelik, a spokesperson for the AKP, told reporters late on Nov. 25.
“We are standing by the Turkmens in every way. What I mean when I say ‘meaningful and qualitative support’ also includes their being equipped with some resources that will ensure their material and moral security, that will ensure their resistance against all kinds of threats against the existence of the Turkmens and that will allow them to oppose, in the required way, attacks on their region, as in the attack against Türkmendağı. There is no need to list it item by item in any way; Turkey is standing by the Turkmens materially and morally and with abstract and concrete resources,” Çelik said after a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting chaired by AKP leader and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Çelik also reiterated that Turkish F-16 jets shot down a Russian plane on Nov. 24 under its rules of engagement, not because it considers Russia as a hostile country.
His remarks followed earlier remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who also justified the use of trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to send “humanitarian assistance” to Syria at the time.
Dismissing Russian claims that the Russian plane had been on an anti-terror mission against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in northern Syria, Erdoğan said, “No one should ever fool themselves: There are no Daesh [ISIL] elements in the Bayırbucak region where Turkmen live.”
Erdoğan also attacked those who criticized his government’s ostensible aid to the Turkmens.
“You know the famous MİT truck betrayal which took place right after the Dec.17-25 coup attempt, don’t you? There are some who still make their headlines for their newspapers without any shame. Those trucks were trucks taking aid to our Bayırbucak Turkmens. Some are saying, ‘Prime Minister Erdoğan was saying that there were no weapons inside those [trucks].’ What if there were, what if there weren’t? What are we saying: ‘We are taking humanitarian assistance there.’ Who are they? They are our mistreated and oppressed Bayırbucak Turkmen siblings. That’s what we did,” Erdoğan said late Nov. 24.
In January 2014, trucks belonging to MİT were stopped by a prosecutor who sought to have the gendarmerie search the vehicles in the southern province of Adana before they crossed into Syria. Claiming that the trucks were carrying “humanitarian aid to Turkmens” in the war-torn country, the Turkish government accused followers of ally-turned-foe U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in the judiciary and security institutions of illegally ordering the search.
In February 2014, a ban was imposed on the publication of reports about the search, and in April 2015 a Turkish court arrested 17 active soldiers who stopped the trucks.
There has long been speculation that the aid was actually being sent to jihadists in Syria.
On Nov. 25, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that airstrikes on the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border hit an aid convoy. The Anadolu Agency said seven people were killed and 10 wounded in strikes that it said hit a convoy taking supplies to refugees in Azaz. It was not immediately clear if the strikes were carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier intensive Russian airstrikes in Azaz.
Turkish officials have yet to make any statement on the incident.