Turkey denies allegations of chemical weapons use against PKK

Turkish officials have denied allegations that the Turkish Armed Forces had used chemical weapons in their operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar

Reuters - Duvar English

Turkey's defence ministry and top government officials on Oct. 20 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 İbrahim Kalın said on Twitter.

Ömer Çelik, spokesperson of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 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.

After the spread of the claims, jailed former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said on Twitter that an independent, international delegation should go to the region and investigate the allegations.

"Parliament and the opposition cannot remain silent. Using chemical weapons, whatever the reason, is a felony all around the world. The clear responsible of such a crime would be the AKP-MHP government, which knows no bounds in its war policy. Let no one forget for a moment that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity. Those who commit such a crime will definitely be held accountable before an independent judiciary," he said.