Turkish FM: Truck intercepted in Hatay was carrying aid to Syria's Turkmen
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said that a Syria-bound truck which was intercepted by the gendarmerie on suspicion of arms shipment in the southern province of Hatay last week was carrying aid to Syria's Turkmen, strongly refuting allegations that the truck was loaded with weapons.
Last week, the mysterious truck, allegedly carrying arms and humanitarian aid en route to Syria and escorted by Turkish intelligence officers, pitted the government against the judiciary after the local governor ordered security forces to stop executing a search warrant ordered by prosecutors.
Davutoğlu insisted there is no problem from the legal aspect concerning the cargo as the truck was loaded with basic aid materials destined for embattled Turkmen.
Syrian Turkmen were besieged in northern cities and towns amid the enduring power struggle and fierce battles between Syrian Kurds and al-Qaeda-linked radical opposition forces over the control of the northern part of the country.
Turkish gendarmes allegedly discovered weapons and ammunition as well as humanitarian aid in the truck as it made its way from the southern province of Hatay to Syria, the Hürriyet daily claimed in a report which appeared on its website last week.
According to the claims, gendarmes discovered in an initial search of the truck ammunition, weapons and humanitarian aid, the daily said. According to the report, the police were made to transfer the investigation to the gendarmerie as the place where the truck was stopped by the police was reportedly an area out of the city limits. Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz, who was reportedly informed of the incident, instructed the gendarmerie to not search the truck.
“There are Turkmen [in Syria]. There is aid destined for Turkmen in the truck,” Interior Minister Efkan Ala told reporters in Parliament on Thursday. He also asked “everybody to mind their own business.”
Speaking in a televised interview aired on the private NTV news channel, Davutoğlu also expressed his joy over the release of Turkish photojournalist Bünyamin Aygün, who was held in captivity for 40 days by a radical group linked to al-Qaeda.
Davutoğlu said his ministry had extended tremendous efforts to secure the release of the photojournalist, adding that he had closely monitored the process from the very beginning.
"I'm very happy and proud of the way he [Aygün] reacted as a Turkish citizen following his release," Davutoğlu said. The Turkish foreign minister told NTV that he had spoken with Aygün while the photojournalist was entering Turkey and was glad to hear his voice, adding that he had witnessed similar moment of joy after other such cases over the past two years.
"We have secured the release of close to 160 of our citizens in similar cases over the past [several] years."