US asked Turkey to thwart arms transfer from Iran to Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. AFP photo
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. AFP photo

The United States warned Ankara last year that Iran would attempt to transport unmanned aerial vehicles to Venezuela via Turkey in violation of international sanctions, a new diplomatic cable released by the website WikiLeaks has revealed.
Washington sent the cable to its embassy in Ankara in March 2009, warning that the shipment was expected to arrive in Turkey within two months and would be loaded onto a maritime vessel for continued transport to Venezuela.
In the State Department cable, the United States asked its embassy to tell the Turkish government to investigate the activity and ensure that Iran did not make use of Turkish territory to transfer items “proscribed by U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
The document additionally asked that “if the cargo is found to be in violation of UNSCR [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 1747 that the GOT [government of Turkey] use all available means to prevent the transshipment of this cargo and detain it.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry declined to comment Thursday on the leaked cable.
Fears of Iranian nuclear proliferation led the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1747 in 2007 to tighten sanctions against Iran. The council approved a new round of sanctions in June, over the opposition of nonpermanent members Turkey and Brazil.
“As of early March, Venezuelan officials believed that the equipment would be repackaged and labeled as electronic equipment,” the cable dated March 2009 said. Washington underscored that the United States believed the shipment constituted arms and related material, which Iran is prohibited from transferring under Resolution 1747, paragraph 5.
The cable also revealed another incident in which Turkish officials intervened to block a similar transfer after receiving a warning from the United States.
“This case appears to be similar to one from January 2009 where Iran attempted to ship drums of nitrate and sulphite chemicals and dismantled laboratory instruments, which could possibly be used for making bombs to Venezuela, via Turkey,” the document said.
“In response to U.S. concerns that the shipment may have been a violation of UNSCR 1747, Turkish officials inspected the cargo and made a decision to return it to Iran,” the cable added.
Washington told its Ankara embassy to thank the Turkish government “for its willingness to interdict and take positive action with regards to a similar shipment in January.

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