Turkey rejects US report claiming link to child soldiers

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With Istanbul’s skyline far in the distance a view of the Sazlidere dam, near the construction site for the first bridge of the Kanal Istanbul project, Thursday, June 24, 2021. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to build a controversial alternative waterway to the north of Istanbul that would bypass the Bosphorus Strait. Many oppose the project, fearing it would cause irreparable environmental damage. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s foreign ministry has slammed a U.S. report on human trafficking that criticized Ankara for providing “operational, equipment, and financial support” to an armed militia in Syria that recruits child soldiers.

In a statement late Friday, the Turkish foreign ministry said it “completely rejects” the claim and its record is clean.

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The statement also accuses Washington of “double standards and hypocrisy” pointing to American support for Syrian Kurdish militants. It cites a United Nations report that documented child recruitment and exploitation under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey says Syrian Kurdish militants that provided the backbone of the SDF fighting the Islamic State group were linked to Kurdish fighters who have been waging an insurgency against Turkey for more than three decades and are designated as terrorists. American support for them has been a major irritant in U.S.-Turkish relations.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department highlighted Turkey and 14 other countries for the use of child soldiers. It was the first time a NATO ally was placed on such a list.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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