By: Jihan Anwar
Fazli Corman, the Turkish Ambassador to Yemen held a press conference on Saturday, December 29 to announce and clarify that the Turkish Government had no connection whatsoever with recent weapons cargoes that arrived in Yemen.
At the press conference, held at the Sheba Hotel, Corman aimed to shed light on the latest series of weapons loads which have been traced back to Turkey and prompted serious investigations by both the Yemeni police and media.
Corman began by reminding those present of the solidarity and brotherly relations which have existed between the two countries for centuries, as well as of Turkish support for Yemen’s peaceful transitional period. He stressed that the basis for Yemeni-Turkish relations was indiscriminate Turkish support for the Yemeni people. This, he said, was demonstrated when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Sana’a in October and met with representatives of all Yemeni political parties, thereby expressing neutral yet consistent support for Yemen.
He declared that the press conference was organized 15 days after the discovery of a weapons transport truck in Hodeidah only because the Turkish Embassy was currently waiting for Yemeni authorities to release more information about it.
Corman stated that Turkey was neither a major international producer of weapons nor a primary gun exporter to Yemen, though officially it has delivered guns to Yemen when there had been a request by Yemeni authorities.
On November 4, 2012, around 2,500 Glock pistols were found hidden in a shipping container which was transporting biscuit boxes to Aden Port.
The ship had been identified as sailing from a Turkish port at Mersin and stopping in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The cargo was then transferred to a smaller ship and directed to Yemen’s southern harbor. Yemeni customs authorities found the weapons hidden at the bottom of the boxes, after an x-ray check which was prompted by the fact that the weight of the load was higher than the one registered for the boxes. The possibility that the weapons could have been loaded in Jeddah was ruled out by the fact that the boxes were not opened at the Saudi port.
Corman remarked that following a request by Turkish authorities, Yemeni Customs had sent a sample from the guns to be analyzed in Turkish laboratories. The guns are being analyzed and compared with those officially manufactured in Turkey to discover the manufacturer by way of matches in production materials, since no registered marks were visible on the guns, excepting the signature “RUGER,” which is not a registered weapon manufacturer in Turkey. A U.S. weapons company has the same name, but the manner in which the name is inscribed on the pistols found in the cargo is different, which may indicate that the weapons were imitations or illegally produced.
Investigations are still underway. The specific person to whom the cargo was being shipped is unknown, as a forged name is believed to have been used for this purpose.
On March 24, 2011, a weapons cargo was seized in the UAE. It contained 16,000 Turkish weapons to be delivered to Yemen.
Investigations found that the weapons were actually ‘traumatic’ blank cartridge guns, yet were ready to be converted into barrel guns and used as real weapons. The manufacturer was discovered to be the Turkish “Weapon Industry,” which had a license to produce only traumatic guns. On July 6, 2011, following a surprise search of the company’s factories, its license was revoked after it was found that the manufactured guns were different from those they received licenses for. The owner of Weapon Industry was jailed for one year and was forced to pay a large fine for attempting to bypass the law.
Ambassador Corman observed that it was easy to see how smugglers would be interested in using this method to deliver weapons, as regulations for traumatic arms are less strict than for real guns; furthermore, the export of traumatic arms doesn’t require permission from the Turkish government.
Corman suggested that the discovered cargo could have been destined for another country and brought into Yemen for both its strategic location and because of the comparative ease with which smuggling can occur here in light of the unstable situation the country is currently mired in.
Regarding the truck which was recently discovered in Hodeidah on December 14, and which was claimed to be from Turkey, Corman observed that the truck was found in the road and there may not have been any proof linking it with Turkey. He stated that his personal inquiries which he directed towards Yemeni police authorities on the matter had elicited no details, including weather the weapons found were of Turkish manufacture or not.
Yemen police officials had earlier stated that an investigative committee had been formed to clarify the matter, and that no details could be shared at the moment regarding the origin or producer of the guns.
Ambassador Fazli Corman declared that as a responsible, transparent and democratic country, Turkey would continue to cooperate with Yemen in terms of shedding light on these recent events, and that it would not affect the brotherly relations which exist between the two countries.
The Spokesman for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secuk Unal stated on December 19 that “The said delivery of the pistols [to Yemen] is not based on a license issued by Turkey. Our competent authorities will be taking into consideration possibilities, including the presence of some circles that might have aimed at negatively affecting Turkish-Yemeni relations.”
Prime Minister Erdogan’s administration has stressed that the shipment was not authorized. “Turkey will continue to support the security and stability needed for Yemen’s reconciliation process in various ways, and will firmly oppose any initiative that could negatively affect this process,” added Unal.
“The government should make a satisfactory statement which shows that Turkey has abided by international law and legitimacy, that it doesn’t interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, and particularly that it definitely doesn’t allow arms smuggling,” Turkish opposition leader Faruk Logoglu suggested.
Corman declared his personal and firm support for any government institution or NGO which fights arms smuggling.
The Turkish Ambassador expressed his surprise at the media attention the story has provoked, and wondered aloud why the same volume of attention hadn’t been seen in other smuggling cases involving Yemen.
Corman raised the possibility that there could be factions benefitting from the attempted disruption of current, fruitful relations between Turkey and Yemen and that all possibilities should be explored.
He called for fairness, transparency and precision in investigations and for those involved to “believe one’s eyes, intelligence and reason” in judging and finding the truth.