Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Tuesday rejected claims that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) is using chemical weapons against Kurdish fighters saying the military does not have the weapons in its inventory.
“There is absolutely and in no way chemical weapons in the TAF inventory,’’ Artı Gerçek news site cited Turkey’s top defence official and former chief of general staff as saying during a session in parliament.
Turkey is accused of employing chemical weapons in series of cross-border operations targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara says is an offshoot of the PKK, an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for Kurdish self-rule for 40 years.
The PKK in June accused Turkey of using the weapons at least 300 times in Iraq, where the group’s headquarters are located, Asia News reported.
“There is no such thing,’’ Akar said of such claims. “(Chemical weapons) have not been purchased, neither openly nor secretly… It is very easy to trace were chemical weapons have been purchased and where they went.’’
Akar on Tuesday also addressed criticisms over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems in the parliament session, Yeniçağ newspaper reported.
“Some matters are national secrets and cannot be revealed,’’ Akar said, in a response to critical remarks from lawmakers that Turkey had yet to use the S-400 systems, which Ankara says cost it $2.5 billion and resulted in U.S. sanctions.
Noting that the S-400 systems had met Turkey’s needs, Akar said its use was a military matter.
“Has there been an aerial attack which we failed to use the S-400s for?’’ he asked, stopping short of confirming or denying the systems’ use.
Turkey’s purchase of the Russian systems in 2019 has caused tensions between Turkey and the United States, which maintains the S-400 is incompatible with NATO systems and poses a security risk to its F-35 fighter jets. Washington has sanctioned Ankara and removed it from its F-35 fighter jet programme over the acquisition.
Turkey, for its part, maintains the S-400s will not be integrated into NATO and purchasing them was a necessity as it was unable to procure air defence systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.