Turkey to search German ship over Syria arms claims

Turkey to search German ship over Syria arms claims

A German-owned ship was stopped in the Mediterranean on Sunday after its owners were warned it was suspected to be carrying Iranian military equipment to Syria. (Photo: AA)

April 18, 2012, Wednesday/ 15:57:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey announced plans on Wednesday to search a German-owned ship suspected of transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria.

The Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean last week after the owner received information, allegedly from Syrian government defectors, that it may be transporting weapons.

W. Bockstiegel Reederei, the German owner of the ship, said neither the ship nor the charter company had any knowledge that “weapons, munitions or military equipment” were on board, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday afternoon.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity, that the vessel was being towed to Turkey’s southern sport of İskenderun, where it will be searched for weapons and ammunition.

Turkish customs officials, police officers, medical experts and diplomats were expected to investigate the ship late Wednesday afternoon, after Today’s Zaman went to print.

A German newspaper argued that the Atlantic Cruiser was transporting weapons from Iran to Syria. “The ship, weighing 6,200 tons, was carrying weapons and ammunition to Tartus, Syria, with the aim of arming President Bashar al-Assad’s forces,” reported the newspaper.

During President Assad’s violent crackdown on Syrian civilians, Turkey imposed sanctions against its neighbor and announced its intention to intercept arms shipment to the country by air, land and sea. Last year the Turkish government stopped several ships and trucks suspected of carrying weapons across the Syrian border through Turkey.

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