Mar 02 2018

Czech Republic biggest supplier of PKK arms – report

The Czech Republic is the biggest supplier of arms to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its offshoots in Syria, Turkey’s Yeni Şafak newspaper said citing a former Turkish army commander.

The majority of the weapons that the United States provides to the Kurdish terrorists are sourced from the Czech Republic, which released from custody the co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Saleh Muslim on Tuesday, despite Turkey’s extradition request, Yeni Şafak said.

The weapons, which include BKS, Dochka, Draganof and Kalashnikov rifles, as well as 23 millimeter ZU-23, IGLA (SA-18) anti-plane weapons, mortar shells, Katyusha rockets and Grad weapons were handed to U.S. bases in Bulgaria and Romania. From there, they were transported to terror group’s armories in Syria’s al-Hasakah, the newspaper said.

Colonle Haydar Ateş, the former commander of the Afghanistan Turkish Task Force, said that East Germany was center of the illicit arms procurements until 1990, but after Germany’s reunification, the procurements were made through Czechoslovakia. The Prague-based arms trade of former Warsaw Pact weapons reached $70-80 billion a year and the biggest buyer of the weapons over the past five years was the United States, he said.

"The Pentagon and the CIA are very well aware of who they are giving their weapons to and are afraid of giving weapons in their own inventory to the PKK in case they are held to account in the future," said Ateş.

“Everyone takes their share of the illicit activity. Except for the Javelin and TOW-type anti-tank weapons, the remainder of the weapons sent by the U.S. to Syria are Russian-made. The UAE foots the bill for the weapons buildup. The political and military authorities who served on the field in the illegal arms trade also received personal profits from these businesses,” he said.

Muslim allegedly met with arms dealers in Prague following his release, Yeni Şafak said. Many top PKK officials including Zubeyir Aydar and Sabri Ok made similar visits to the Czech Republic between 2014 and 2017, it said.

Turkey has fought the autonomy-seeking PKK for three decades at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. Ankara launched a military incursion into Syria on Jan. 20 to fight members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the PYD, which Turkey says is indistinguishable from the PKK, recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union. Washington has trained and equipped the YPG as part of a wider force that has been fighting against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Muslim had held talks with Turkish officials in Istanbul in July 2013, after which Turkey had promised to supply aid to the Kurds in northern Syria. The negotiations were held as part of a general peace effort that also included Turkish meetings with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The process was abandoned in 2015 after the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost its legislative majority in parliament and Turkey launched a crackdown on the Kurdish opposition.