Rome will ban arms exports to Turkey, after Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday October 15th, Reuters reported.
“The solution to the Syria crisis must be diplomatic not military,” he told parliament.
Di Maio said a European Union-wide embargo on arms sales would have taken months to organise.
EU countries agreed on Monday October 14th to limit arms exports to Turkey over its operation in northern Syria, prompting condemnation from Ankara, even though they stopped short of a bloc-wide embargo against a Nato ally.
On Sunday October 13th, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that his government would press for an EU ban on arms sales to Turkey.
This move comes after Turkey launched an operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Speaking ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg of the EU Committee on Foreign Affairs on the issue, Conte said Italy would seek to implement the ban as soon as possible, according to AFP.
"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.
"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 destabilising actions in the region," said the statement from Conte's office.
Other European countries, including France, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway, have already announced a halt in arms supplies to Turkey.
However, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop the military operation in Syria.
France’s President Macron said on Sunday that he had told Erdoğan and President Trump by phone that the Turkish operation in Syria had to stop immediately and that it risked creating a humanitarian crisis.
According to Eurostat, the EU exported €45 million worth of arms and ammunition to Turkey last year, with Italy being the biggest seller, followed by Spain, Britain and Germany. Only Hungary appears to oppose sanctions and Budapest moved to oppose a joint EU statement last week, Reuters reported.
Cyprus and Greece are urging further economic sanctions against Turkey, given its illegal gas drilling in waters off southern Cyprus. The EU is considering asset freezing and travel bans against the Turkish military and captains of the drilling ships.