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European NATO Members Limit Arms Exports To Turkey In Face Of Operation Peace Spring

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European NATO Members Limit Arms Exports To Turkey In Face Of Operation Peace Spring

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Several allied NATO member states from Europe have urged against Turkey’s advance in northeastern Syria.

So far, the Netherlands, Norway and Finland blocking arms exports to Turkey, and France and Germany joining in the prohibition on October 12th.

“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 the same day, 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.

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.

These decisions came after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ankara in attempts to negotiate a solution of some sort.

He underlined that “while Turkey has legitimate security concerns, I expect Turkey to act with restraint.”

Stoltenberg expressed his “serious concerns about the risk of further destabilising the region, escalating tensions, and even more human suffering”.

He emphasized that “We have a common enemy – Da’esh [ISIS].  A few years ago, they controlled significant territory in Iraq and in Syria. Working together in the Global Coalition, we have liberated all this territory and millions of people.  These gains must not be jeopardized.”

“Turkey is a great power in this great region”, the Secretary General stressed,  “and with great power comes great responsibility”.

Stoltenberg urged Turkey to avoid any unilateral actions that may further destabilize the region and escalate tensions.

Spain and Italy haven’t issued bans on arms exports to Turkey, but on October 13th, talian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that he would press for an EU-wide ban for arms sales to Turkey over the advance against the Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria.

A government statement said that Rome had been working since October 12th for a moratorium on arms exports to Turkey “as soon as possible.”

“Italy will promote this initiative in all multilateral forums and will work to combat Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria with every instrument permitted by international law,” said the statement from Conte’s office.

“The Italian government is convinced that we must act with the utmost determination to avoid further suffering of the Syrian people, especially Kurds, and to counteract destabilizing actions in the region,” the statement added.

Separately, the Arab League called the Turkish operation an “invasion.”

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab league, called Turkey’s military operation an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty”.

Gheit said the offensive had resulted in a new wave of displacement and jeopardises “achievements” made in fighting ISIL.

The Arab League called for the United Nations Security Council to take measures to force Turkey to halt its military offensive and “immediately” withdraw its forces from Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has rejected all possibility of stopping its advance.

On October 13th, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop the military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria.

A day earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed an offer by US President Donald Trump to mediate between Ankara and Kurdish YPG forces to halt Turkey’s incursion in Syria.

“We don’t mediate, negotiate with terrorists. The only thing to be done is for these terrorists to lay down arms,” Cavusoglu said. “We tried the political solution in Turkey in the past and we saw what happened.”

Russia has remained somewhat silent regarding the operation.

Without mentioning the Turkish army, or any other forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that military forces “present illegally” inside Syrian territory should leave the country.

He said that when Syria recovers this would also apply to the Russian Armed Forces.

“If a future legitimate Syrian government says that they won’t need the presence of the Russian army anymore, it will apply for the Russian Federation as well,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif offered Tehran’s help in mediating for a solution to the situation.

Zarif referred to a 21-year-old security accord that required Damascus to stop harbouring Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels.

Turkey maintains that the pact had never been implemented.

“The Adana Agreement between Turkey and Syria – still valid – can be the better path to achieve security,” Zarif said in a post on Twitter. “Iran can help bring together the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian Govt and Turkey so that the Syrian Army together with Turkey can guard the border,” he added.

It should be quite obvious that Russia and Iran’s moderate response to Turkey’s advance, and the harsh, threatening rhetoric of Turkey’s NATO allies means that in that Ankara would likely turn to Russia for even more arms purchases in the future. This would further improve the warming relations between Turkey and Russia, in the face of antagonism by the US, EU and others.

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