Feb 19 2018

Turkish military denies using chemical weapons in Syria

Turkey has denied using chemical weapons in its four-week-old offensive against the Kurdish-controlled Syrian enclave of Afrin after medical sources in the area said civilians had suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to poison gas.

Turkey began a large-scale military incursion, backed by air strikes and artillery fire, into the northwest Syria district of Afrin on Jan. 20 to rid the area of Syrian Kurdish fighters it says are part of a Kurdish group that has been fighting inside Turkey since 1984.

Turkish Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said during a visit to Turkey’s Syrian border that all Turkish military’s activities in Afrin conform with international law, as do the weapons and munitions used.

“The operation is continuing successfully, whilst respecting Syria’s territorial integrity,” the armed forces’ website quoted him as saying.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also denied the use of banned weapons.

“It’s just a fabricated story. Turkey has never used any kind of chemical weapons,” he told reporters at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish forces and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, quoted medical sources in Afrin as saying civilians had breathing problems and dilated pupils consistent with a gas attack after a Turkish bombardment of a village near the Turkish border on Friday.

A White House official said the probability that Turkey had used chemical weapons in Afrin was, “extremely unlikely”.