Turkey says not aiding Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels

Turkey says not aiding Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels

ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
Turkey says not aiding Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu speaks during a joint press conference with his Costa Rican counterpart Enrique Castillo Barrantes after talks in Ankara on October 7, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

Turkey said Oct.8 it has never allowed Al-Qaeda-linked Syria rebels to use its territory to launch attacks against the Damascus regime, after President Bashar al-Assad accused Ankara of turning a blind eye to terrorists.

"Turkey has never allowed Al-Qaeda-linked groups, it has never allowed them to cross its borders," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at a news conference in Ankara.

"Turkey is on the frontline of countries fighting against terrorism in the most determined fashion." His remarks came after Assad said last week that Ankara was tolerating the presence of Al-Qaeda-linked rebels on the long the volatile border between the two countries. There are several hardline Islamist groups among the numerous rebel formations fighting in Syria.

Al-Qaeda in Syria is fighting to drive rivals out of areas bordering Turkey and Iraq in a bid to control territory stretching from Iraq into northern Syria, observers say.

Across the north and east, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has set up checkpoints on roads to border crossings, and opened fronts to crush other rebel groups fighting to oust the embattled Syrian president.

Turkey has cut off ties with the regime in Damascus since Assad's deadly crackdown on popular dissent and has so far taken in more than 500,000 Syrian refugees.

Last month, President Abdullah Gül said the threat of radical groups slipping into Turkey was "a big worry".