- German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday that the federal government had decided to suspend arms exports to Turkey.
- Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, issued a similar statement Saturday evening.
- All Foreign Ministers of the EU member states will discuss the position of the European Union on the issue on Monday.
In reaction to the Turkish offensive in Syria, both France and Germany have decided to immediately halt the selling any military equipment that Ankara may use in its ongoing invasion. Notably, Turkey is the largest buyer of German weapons.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday that the federal government had decided to suspend arms exports to Turkey in response to Ankara’s military offensive in north-eastern Syria, which has been criticized by various international bodies. “Given the background of the Turkish military offensive in north-eastern Syria, the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for any military equipment that could be used in Syria by Turkey,” the minister told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the measure to public broadcaster ZDF.
Maas stressed that Berlin has been following a very restrictive course in arms exports to Ankara since 2016, especially following the Turkish military offensive against the Afrin region of northern Syria. Turkey is the largest buyer of German weapons. In 2018, Germany exported €234 million worth of weapons to the country, representing almost a third of all German arms exports.
Elsewhere, France has also stopped exporting weapons to Turkey. The country made the announcement on Saturday evening. These also concern weapons that can be used in the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, issued a statement to that effect. “Pending the cessation of the Turkish offensive in North-East Syria, France has decided to suspend any plans to export to Turkey war materials that could be used in the context of this offensive. This decision is of immediate effect,” the France minister tweeted.
A number of other countries, including the Netherlands, made the same decision earlier. Paris has warned Ankara that the Syrian offensive is endangering the security of Europe. The announcement was made in a joint statement issued by the French Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Turkey’s army has been working on a major operation in Syria since Wednesday and has reportedly already killed 459 Kurdish fighters. All Foreign Ministers of the EU member states will discuss the position of the European Union on the issue on Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that he is keen on creating a “safe zone” in northern Syria. The area in question is in the hands of a coalition led by Kurds. Erdogan sees this group of Kurds as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is regarded by various countries as a terrorist organization.
As a result of the violence that has ensued, 100,000 people have fled northern Syria since Wednesday. A large proportion of these people fled to the south. It is not known how many people fled to Turkey. The country already houses 3.4 million Syrian refugees.
The international community has condemned the Turkish action. In response, Erdogan threatened to send the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if the European Union treats the Turkish invasion as an invasion or occupation.
At several places in Europe, thousands of Kurds took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against the action of Erdogan’s government. In The Hague, hundreds of demonstrators staged a protest march through the city.