ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has “never used” chemical weapons in Syria and accusations that it had done so during its offensive against a Syrian Kurdish militia are “baseless,” a Turkish diplomatic source said on Saturday.
Turkey last month launched military operations dubbed “Olive Branch,” supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops and air strikes against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia viewed as “terrorists” by Ankara.
The Turkish source was reacting to claims by the head of Afrin hospital in northern Syria that six men were treated late Friday after shelling during the offensive and had symptoms that were in line with exposure to toxic agents.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said shelling from either Turkey or allied factions hit Al-Sheikh Hadid, west of the town of Afrin, and left six people with “enlarged pupils” and “breathing difficulties.”
But the Turkish source said Ankara took the “utmost care” regarding civilian safety and that the claims Turkey was responsible for an alleged gas attack were “baseless.”
“Turkey never used chemical weapons,” the source added. “[These are] lies… this is black propaganda.”
Turkey says the YPG is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by the United States and the European Union.
But the YPG has been working closely with Washington to oust the Islamic State extremist group from Syria, which has strained relations between the two NATO allies.
The Observatory says at least 78 civilians have died during Turkey’s operation but Ankara repeatedly insists it is taking all the necessary measures to protect civilians.