Turkey deputy: weapons being smuggled to Syria

A Turkish deputy says Syrian officials presented what they said was evidence of arms smuggling at border the countries share.

ISTANBUL // Many firearms from Turkey have entered Syria, and the Turkish government has stopped alleged arms-smuggling activities at a border post between the two countries, a Turkish opposition deputy said yesterday.

"You see many Turkish-made firearms in Syria," Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, a deputy from the province of Hatay, which borders Syria, said in a telephone interview. "I don't know how they got into the country."

Mr Ediboglu, a member of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey's main opposition group, visited Syria in September with a delegation of his party. He said Syrian officials presented what they said was evidence of arms smuggling at the Cilvegozu border gate in Hatay. Trucks full of weapons had allegedly been unloaded in the no-man's-land between the Turkish and the Syria control points, he said.

"The Syrians said the arms ended up with the Muslim Brotherhood," an Islamic group opposing the regime of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian president, Mr Ediboglu said.

The Syrian government has accused the US of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey has condemned the Syrian regime's use of force against a seven-month-old uprising and has given political support to the Syrian opposition.

Mr Ediboglu said that the CHP informed Ankara about the Syrian accusations and that he went to the Cilvegozu border gate to check. "Some people there used the no-man's-land to get cheap petrol from sellers in Syria, and they said they saw trucks unloading some containers."

He said the Turkish government later ended the practice by enforcing a no-stop rule for vehicles in the no-man's-land.

There was no comment by the government in response to Mr Ediboglu's statements, which came as a Syrian military deserter said Turkey should step up its support for opposition forces Damascus.

Col Riyad Al Asaad, a military officer who fled to Turkey this year, told the Milliyet daily that opposition forces known as the "Free Syrian Army" had 15,000 men that operated inside Syria in 22 different units.