Turkey confirms seizure of Iranian arms shipment to Syria

Turkey confirms seizure of Iranian arms shipment to Syria

Weapons seized in a gun-trafficking investigation in Phoenix, US are seen in this file photo. (Photo: AP)

August 05, 2011, Friday/ 10:18:00/ SERVET YANATMA

Turkish diplomatic sources approached by Today's Zaman have confirmed that an arms shipment from Iran to Syria was intercepted by Turkey.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said the incident took place two-and--half months ago in the southeastern province of Kilis. The Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was already aware of the transportation in a convoy of trucks.

Turkish officials said the original transport papers designated the shipment as “spare parts for guns” when Iranians declared them to custom officials upon entry. An examination of the contents revealed that it matched the declaration. Yet Turkish officials suspected the shipment may have violated the UN arms embargo imposed by the Security Council and decided to seize the contents.

As there was no explicit violation of Turkish law and the declaration matched the contents, the driver and trucks were either released or about to be released, the same official said. The contents however were stored in a safe depot.

A news report that appeared on Israeli website on Thursday quoted the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, saying an arms shipment was intercepted by Turkey. The German daily reported that unnamed diplomatic sources said the weapons were meant for Hezbollah.

On another incident in April, it emerged that Turkey had seized a cache of weapons Iran was attempting to export in violation of a UN arms embargo. Turkish authorities later informed a UN Security Council committee of the interception.

The report to the council's Iran sanctions committee, which oversees compliance with the four rounds of punitive measures the 15-nation body has imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, said a March 21 inspection turned up the weapons, which were listed as “auto spare parts” on the plane's manifest. The plane was bound for Aleppo, Syria, and was given permission to pass through Turkish airspace provided it made a “technical stop” at Diyarbakır Airport, the report said.

The report also said a search of the Iranian YasAir Cargo Airlines Ilyushin-76 revealed a number of “prohibited military items” -- 60 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, 14 BKC/Bixi machine guns, nearly 8,000 rounds of BKC/AK-47 ammunition, 560 60 mm mortar shells and 1,288 120 mm mortar shells. “The above-mentioned items were seized and have been stored in a military warehouse in Diyarbakır,” said the report, which was sent to the Iran sanctions committee on March 29.

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