Erdogan tacitly acknowledges claim MİT transported arms to Syria

Pro-government figures had previously claimed that trucks belonging to MİT that were intercepted en-route to Syria contained “humanitarian aid” for the Bayır-Bucak Turkmens who live just over the border from Turkey’s southern Hatay province. Many claims were made by the opposition and Turkish media that the trucks were, in fact, transporting weapons to radical factions in Syria.

Early in 2014, an anonymous tip led to the interception of a number of trucks on the suspicion of weapons smuggling. The first operation took place in Hatay on Jan. 1, 2014. Another anonymous tip led to three more trucks being stopped and searched in Turkey’s southern Adana province on Jan. 19, 2014.

Speaking to a room full of teachers on Tuesday gathered for Teachers’ Day, Erdogan said, “You know of the treason regarding the MİT trucks, don’t you? So what if there were weapons in them? I believe that our people will not forgive those who sabotaged this support.”

Erdogan was speaking just hours after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 aircraft near the Syrian border on Tuesday morning after, Ankara has said, it violated Turkish airspace despite repeated warnings.

Erdogan accused the prosecutors investigating the MİT trucks of denying Turkmens the power to defend themselves. “Those [MİT] trucks were taking aid to the Bayır-Bucak Turkmens. Some were saying, ‘Prime Minister Erdogan said, there were no weapons inside those trucks;’ So what if there were?”

Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials called the 2014 investigation of the MİT trucks “treason and espionage” on the part of the prosecutors because the trucks were claimed to be transporting humanitarian aid to the Bayır-Bucak Turkmens.

Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, said during a television program immediately after the interception of the trucks became public knowledge that the trucks were carrying aid supplies to Turkmens in Syria.

Many high-level Turkish officials, including then-President Abdullah Gul, said the trucks’ cargo was a “state secret,” which led some to speculate that the trucks were carrying arms.

However, Syrian-Turkmen Assembly Vice Chairman Hussein al-Abdullah said in January 2014 that no trucks carrying aid had arrived from Turkey.

The recent military operation of the Syrian government, backed by Russian air strikes, in the rural area of Latakia, inhabited by Bayır-Bucak Turkmens has caused thousands of Turkmens to flee to the Turkish border. A Turkmen brigade commander called for Turkey’s assistance and expressed his frustration that Turkey’s helping hand had not been extended far enough.

Turkmen Commander Omer Abdullah of the Sultan Abdulhamit Brigade, who is fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, recently called on Turkey to help the Turkmens being pounded with cluster bombs by the Syrian regime and Russian forces.

“We are trying to survive under unbearable brutality and we need Turkey’s help,” said Abdullah. Expressing criticism of the AK Party, Abdullah said: “Every day our Turkmen brothers are dying. We expect the government to support us. Why have they abandoned us? Our martyrs fall every day. Why are we being left alone? I don’t understand.”

Abdullah’s claim pokes an important hole in the AK Party’s claims, while also posing the question of to whom the MİT trucks, now widely accepted as transporting weapons, were sent.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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