Turkey denies claims intelligence officers captured in Syria

February 19, 2012, Sunday/ 12:55:00

The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied on Sunday a report that claimed dozens of Turkish intelligence officers have been captured in neighboring Syria.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selçuk Ünal told Today’s Zaman that similar allegations surfaced earlier as well, adding that they did not reflect the truth.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this weekend that more than 40 Turkish intelligence officers have been captured by the Syrian army and that Turkey has been conducting intensive negotiations with Syria in order to secure the intelligence officers' release. Syria, on the other hand, says the Turks' release is conditioned on the extradition of officers and soldiers that defected from the Syrian army to join the opposition, who are currently in Turkey, the report said.

Syria also conditioned the continuation of the negotiations on Turkey's blockade of weapon transfers and passage of soldiers from the rebels' Free Syrian Army through its territory, Haaretz said. It also demanded that Iran sponsor the negotiations to release the Turkish officers.

According to the report, Turkey rejected the Syrian demands, something, which the report says, is a sign that Ankara could further harden its stance on Syria.

Syria, on the other hand, has recently published "confessions" that it allegedly gathered from the Turkish officers that they were trained by Israel's Mossad and given instructions to carry out bombings to undermine the country's security. According to the Syrians, one of the Turkish officers said that Mossad also trains soldiers from the Free Syrian Army and that Mossad agents came to Jordan to train al-Qaeda officials to send to Syria to carry out attacks.

According to Haaretz, Turkey also mediated several weeks ago between the Free Syrian Army and Iran to secure the release of several Iranian citizens who were captured by Syrian rebels.

The Israeli report comes days after it was revealed in Turkey that at least one National Intelligence Organization (MİT) agent was involved in the abduction of two Syrian defectors, Mustafa Kassum and Col. Hussein Harmush and their transfer to Syrian authorities.

The state prosecutor in the southern province of Adana has formally charged the MİT member and four other individuals for their supposed role in the handing over of Harmush and Kassum to Syrian security forces.

Harmush defected and fled to Turkey last June but returned to Syria under unclear circumstances in September. In late September, the colonel “confessed” to crimes against the Syrian government in a tape aired on Syrian national television. Earlier reports said the MİT officer and four other suspects had accepted a bribe of $100,000 from Syrian intelligence services to repatriate Harmush, while subsequent reports suggested that the local MİT chief and even MİT Chairman Hakan Fidan knew about the case.

On Jan 30, the Syrian League for Human Rights reported that the regime's security forces had executed Harmush.

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