ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s defence ministry and top government officials on Thursday firmly rejected allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces had used chemical weapons in their operations against Kurdish militants.
Media close to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group published videos this week which it said showed chemical weapons being used by the army against the PKK in northern Iraq.
Separately, an international medical groups’ federation published a report this month seeking independent investigation of possible violations of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
“Allegations that ‘the Turkish Armed Forces used chemical weapons’ are completely baseless and untrue,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
“All these disinformation efforts are the futile struggles of the terrorist organization and its allies,” it said, adding that ammunition prohibited by international law and agreements was not used by, or in the inventory of, its armed forces.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States. More than 40,000 people have been killed in fallout from the insurgency that it launched against the Turkish state in 1984.
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which represents thousands of doctors and campaigns to prevent armed violence, said it found indirect evidence of possible violations during a September mission to northern Iraq.
“The chemical weapons lie is a futile attempt by those who try to whitewash and airbrush terrorism. Our fight against terrorism will continue with resolve and determination,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.
Omer Celik, spokesman of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, described those who make chemical weapons’ allegations as part of “a vile slander network”.
In its report, the IPPNW said Defence Minister Hulusi Akar openly acknowledged in Turkey’s parliament last year the use of tear gas during an operation against the PKK in northern Iraq.
“This is an outright violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and should be pursued legally by the international community,” it said.
The IPPNW said it found in northern Iraq material near an area abandoned by the Turkish army including containers for hydrochloric acid and bleach, which could be used to produce chlorine, a chemical warfare agent. At the same site containers were found for gas masks protecting against chemical weapons, it said.
It said none of its evidence was definitive proof of chemical weapons use but it warranted further independent investigation.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean)