Turkey has angrily rejected Armenia’s claims that it is harboring Al-Qaeda-linked militants that captured an Armenian-populated town in northwestern Syria and caused its residents to flee their homes two weeks ago.
Members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front were reportedly among Islamist rebels that drove Syrian government troops out of Kessab on March 23. The battle displaced about 2,000 local Armenians, virtually the entire population of the town close to the Turkish border. They are now facing an uncertain future.
Arman Kirakosian, the Armenian ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, blamed Turkey for the attack at a March 27 meeting of the OSCE’s governing body in Vienna. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian echoed this accusation in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent the following day.
“All the available evidence and geographic location of Kessab, beyond reasonable doubt suggest that the late attacks were carried out by Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups across the border from the territory of neighboring Turkey,” wrote Nalbandian.
Official Ankara denied those claims as a “shameful slander.” “Our Permanent Representative [to the OSCE,] replying to demonstrate the unfoundedness of these allegations, emphasized Turkey’s continuing aid to civilians affected by the war in Syria and underlining that Turkey was the country most afflicted by terrorism stemming from Syria,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement released on Sunday.
The official pointed to May 2013 car bomb attacks in a Turkish town close to the Syrian border that left 51 people dead and some 140 others injured. He said the bombings were the work of Syria’s ruling regime. The latter has repeatedly accused the Turkish state of providing military and logistical support to the rebels.