A trial of gendarmerie officers in Turkey accused of being members of a terrorist group organized by Fetullah Gulen to allegedly undermine the country’s elected government has raised suspicion that Turkey is actively arming radical Islamists in Syria, reports Al Monitor.
“The accusation that Turkey has provided radical Islamists in Syria with weapons, and keeps doing so, continues to be voiced despite government officials’ denials,” notes the article. “Ankara’s reluctance to get actively involved in the US-led military coalition against the Islamic State (IS) and other radical groups in Syria is also fueling the debate.”
“Speculation about Turkish aid to radical groups fighting the Assad regime has been re-energized by a trial of gendarmerie officers and prosecutors in Istanbul,” the artocle adds.
An estimated 50 individuals are being tried for stopping trucks in 2013 and 2014 suspected of carrying weapons to Syria. They are accused of conspiring against the elected government.
“The trucks turned out to have been chartered by Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT); the government continues to insist that they were carrying humanitarian aid to Turkmens in Syria besieged by the Syrian army,” reports Al Monitor.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reportedly “livid” that the gendarmerie officers intercepted the trucks.
“He accused members of the Gulen movement of trying to undermine his government by planning the raids on the trucks at a sensitive moment for Turkey regarding developments in Syria,” mentions Al Monitor.
“Erdogan sees this as an important showcase trial against the Gulenists and expects to score political points domestically through it in the lead-up to the general elections June 7,” it continues.
Members of opposition parties insist that Erdogan’s assistance to radical groups in Syria is continuing today.
On May 4, The News York Times reported that bags of ammonium nitrate, used as a fertilizer, was flowing to ISIS territory from the Turkish town of Akcakale.
Ammonium nitrate is also used to make bombs. A local politician from the opposition was quoted by The Times as saying that the ammonium nitrate was being used for nefarious purposes in Syria.
However, local officials insisted that it was being used for agricultural purposes in Syria, a country torn by war.
Yasin Aktay, a deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), recently said that the intercepted MIT trucks were heading for the Free Syrian Army.
“While he did not mention the consignment on the trucks, his remark belied claims that it was aid for Syrian Turkmens,” reports Al Monitor. “His words were also accepted as an admission that the trucks were carrying weapons.”
“Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman and chief foreign policy adviser, later denied that Turkey had ever provided weapons to anyone in Syria,” it adds.
According to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), video footage of the seized trucks shows weapons inside them.
“Yasin Aktay is telling the truth. We have film footage showing how the cases on the trucks were opened, and the bombs there. I saw this. Therefore, there is nothing to hide. [Aktay’s] remarks show that this was not humanitarian aid,” he said.
“Kalin’s response also contradicts recent news reports, which have not been officially denied, that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are assisting elements of the Syrian opposition that are making headway in Syria,” notes Al Monitor. “These include Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda-linked group, which reportedly seized Idlib recently with arms supplied by Turkey.”
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, recently said that Turkey and the U.S. have agreed in “principle” to provide air protection to Syrian rebels being trained and equipped to combat ISIS.
However, while taking out the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria continues to be the main priority for Turkey, the U.S. is focused on fighting ISIS.
“Turkey’s reluctance to get involved militarily against IS and other such groups is also said to be the result of divergent priorities with Washington on this score,” reports Al Monitor.
“The rumor in Ankara is that the delay by Turkey and the United States in officially starting their joint program to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition also stems from the clashing Turkish and US priorities,” it adds.