UK, France, and Germany halt arms export to Turkey over incursion into northern Syria

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By Alice Tidey  with AFP
Turkish police special forces patrol in Akcakale on the Turkish-Syrian border, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 12, 2019.
Turkish police special forces patrol in Akcakale on the Turkish-Syrian border, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 12, 2019.   -  Copyright  REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The UK is the latest European country to halt arms exports to Turkey over the country's military incursion into northern Syria.

France and Germany announced their temporary suspension of arm exports to Turkey earlier last week.

On Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament:

"The UK government takes its arms export control responsibilities very seriously and in this case, of course, we will keep our defence exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review," Raab told parliament.

"Turkey's actions are reckless, counterproductive and play straight into Russia's hands," Raab said, adding that that kind of action was not expected from an ally.

Raab also said that now more than ever NATO countries needed to stick together and that cooperation with the US and other allies over Turkey was vital.

"Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive ... the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for all military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria," Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated on Saturday afternoon.

Hours later, Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, issued a similar statement.

"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," she wrote on Twitter.

Berlin and Paris join fellow European countries the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and the Czech Republic in their blockade, with the latter stating that the arms export ban concerned not only Turkey but also any other country involved in the fighting.

Turkey launched its military operation into northern Syria on Wednesday, days after the US announced that it was pulling troops from the area.

Ankara argues the offensive against the Western-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — which is affiliated to Kurdish groups Turkey recognises as terror organisations — will allow the creation of a "safe zone" along its border where the more than three million Syrian refugees it currently hosts will be able to relocate.

But Western countries, including the European Union, the US, and Australia, have condemned the military operation, warning that it could have dangerous consequences.

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France and Germany were the third and fourth-largest arms exporters in the world between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The Netherlands, Norway and Finland were in 10th, 14th and 24th position respectively.

Turkey, meanwhile, was ranked as the world's 13th biggest arms importer with most 60% of its imports originating from the US, followed by Spain (17%) and Italy (15%).

Madrid and Rome have, for now, not taken similar decisions but EU leaders who will gather for a summit on October 17-18 in Brussels are expected to discuss a bloc-wide arms embargo to Turkey.

This article was corrected after it erroneously said Denmark had also stopped arms exports to Turkey.

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