Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is already having to cope with a major scandal that has severely undermined his claim of being a relentless fighter against corruption in high places, is now faced with a fresh crisis involving Syria that has the potential to not only further undermine his credibility but also to damage Turkey’s ties with its Western allies.
The latest debacle follows a scoop by mass circulation daily Hurriyet involving a truck laden with weapons said to be heading for Syria. The story broke a few days after the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad filed a complaint with the UN Security Council alleging that Turkey was supporting anti-government militants in Syria.
Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, claimed in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which was released to the press on Jan. 1, “Turkish authorities are systematically offering help in supplying arms to terrorists operating in a number of districts [in Syria].”
“They support the groups which every day carry out terrorist attacks against the Syrian people, government buildings and other infrastructure facilities,” Jaafari wrote. The letter continued, “They were trained on the border with Syria, after which the Turkish authorities helped them penetrate the neighboring country.”
The Syrian envoy’s letter was taken by Turkish government officials as a propaganda effort by Damascus to add to the fog of war and undermine Ankara’s political support for the legitimate elements of the Syria opposition.
It is no secret, however, that Turkey provided logistical support to Al-Qaeda-related groups in the past, like Jabhat al-Nusra, which it saw as an effective fighting force against Assad’s military machine. Still, Ankara has consistently denied it provides arms to any group in Syria, claiming it is on alert against any weapons going through Turkish territory to these groups.
The revelation by Hurriyet is set to undermine these claims and has lent credence to the Syrian allegation, thus adding to the Erdogan government’s Syrian headache, which has gradually increased since the country's crisis broke out in March 2011.
January 4, 2014
Updates On Syria [1.4]: Syria Informs The UN Of Turkey's Systematic Support For Jihadist Terrorists, More Than Half of Syria's Manufacturing Industry Has Been Destroyed, Syrian National Council Says It Will Not Attend Geneva II Conference
1. An excerpt from, "Ankara suspected of arming jihadists in Syria" by Semih Idiz, Al-Monitor, January 3: