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Iran Press TV

Turkey accused of stealing Syrian olives to finance FSA militants

Iran Press TV

Sat Feb 2, 2019 08:10AM

Turkey has been accused of stealing olive crops in northern Syria and sending them as "Turkish olive oil" to the European Union to finance Ankara-backed militia.

A Swiss lawmaker alerted the Swiss government of Turkey's olive looting from Syria's Afrin and passing them off as their own olive oil to sellers in the EU countries, including Spain.

"In Turkish-occupied Afrin, the olive groves are being pillaged by both Turkish forces and the militias they support. The olives they steal have been sold to Spain, and the sale will continue," Bernhard Guhl of Switzerland's Conservative Democratic Party said on January 15.

The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army forces captured Afrin in northern Syria from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in March 2018.

Spanish newspaper El Publico also said Turkey is using intermediary companies to export olive oil seized from former Kurdish-held areas into Spain. The claim was also made by the Kurdish Firat News Agency and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The seized olives are pressed in local mills by paramilitary teams and then transported through the border to Turkey where it's falsely labeled as Turkish olive oil before being exported to EU countries, locals told the El Publico.

El Publico quotes a dossier on the alleged looting of olive oil from the Afrin area that states the haul from last year's crop could be worth $80 million, with a quarter of revenues due to be handed to FSA militias.

Turkish media, meanwhile, quoted Turkey's agriculture minister as saying that his government does not want the revenues from Afrin to fall into the hands of the Kurdish YPG forces, which are viewed by Ankara as the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.

Guhl told El Publico that "it doesn't matter if the final destination is Spain or Germany but, I believe it is very important that the country or countries concerned launch a criminal investigation to determine whether companies are trading in stolen olives or olive oil."

Reports said Spanish politicians on Tuesday called on their government to make sure Spain and other European countries are not buying oil made from olives "plundered" from Afrin.

Turkey is the third-largest exporter of olive oil into the EU behind Tunisia and Morocco.

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