Turkey denies Syria’s looting accusations, calls claims baseless

March 05, 2013, Tuesday/ 16:48:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey has denied claims by Syrian authorities that it is involved in looting factories and sponsoring terrorism in the war-torn country.

According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report on Monday, Syria's industry authority has filed a case in a European court against the Turkish government for allegedly sponsoring terrorism and looting factories in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Ministry sources pushed back on the claims by the Syrian body when asked by Today's Zaman to comment on the AFP report. An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated that similar allegations surfaced earlier as well, adding that they did not reflect the truth and were totally baseless. “These reports are not worthy of our comment and do not deserve to be taken seriously. These baseless claims have been repeated for some time by the Syrian side, and our stance on them is clear,” said the official.

The official also added that the aim of the accusations was to shift the international community's focus from the developments in war-torn Syria to Turkey.

AFP, referring to the pro-regime daily Al-Watan, reported that the Syrian Chamber of Industry filed the case in an unspecified European country, accusing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of backing armed gangs against the national interest of Syria.

“In the report, the name of the European country is not mentioned. To which European country has Syria applied and on what grounds? Without knowing these details it is impossible for us to comment. Additionally, we haven't received a complaint from a European country yet over the case,” said the official.

“This is a case aimed at asserting our rights, regardless of our political opinion,” Al-Watan quoted the chamber's president, Fares Shehabi, as saying. Shehabi said that several Syrian unions had signed on to the complaint. “We have the necessary documents ... to prove Erdogan's obvious involvement in sponsoring acts of banditry and terrorism,” said Shehabi.

Shehabi also told Al-Watan that the chamber accused Erdogan of contributing to the “transfer of factory [machinery from Aleppo province in northern Syria] to Turkey,” and of “supporting armed gangs who are committing crimes against the national economy.”

In January, Syria accused Turkey of involvement in looting factories in the industrial city of Aleppo in letters sent to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

“Some 1,000 factories in the city of Aleppo have been plundered, and their stolen goods transferred to Turkey with the full knowledge and facilitation of the Turkish government,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in the letters addressed to the UN secretary-general.

Shehabi said the legal complaint was aimed at compelling Ankara to “change its policy toward Syria” and to recovering the stolen goods.

Turkey, once an ally of neighboring Syria, turned fiercely against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last year over his violent crackdown on anti-government protests and has since extended strong support to both refugees and opposition fighters.

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