Turkey’s attacks against the Kurds in north-eastern Syria last week provoked a chorus of international condemnation. On Tuesday October 15th, Spain joined the UK to become the latest EU country to temporarily halt weapon sales to Turkey as a result of this offensive and has issued an official statement in this regard.
Italy, one of the major exporters of weapons to Turkey, also decided on Monday to join the arms sales ban, following the lead of France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. However, Reuters reported that EU ministers and diplomats do not want to impose a full embargo on Ankara yet despite their disappointment with Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan as this will result in Turkey being grouped with Venezuela and Russia, which the EU considers to be ‘hostile’ states.
The Spanish foreign affairs ministry issued a statement in which it condemned Ankara’s offensive over Syria. “Turkish military attacks against Syrian lands will lead to a serious humanitarian disaster in the Syrian community as they are living in a state of instability and insecurity in the region. Turkey’s legitimate security concerns must be resolved by political and diplomatic means, not military attacks,” read the statement, while adding that the Spanish government is halting arms exports to Turkey for the time being.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Spain was Turkey’s fifth biggest arms supplier between 2008 and 2018 after the US, South Korea, Germany and Italy. Turkey, meanwhile, was ranked as the world’s 13th biggest arms importer as 60% of its imports come from the US, followed by Spain (17%) and Italy (15%), remaining percentages being distributed among other countries.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also announced on Tuesday that Britain has decided to stop licensing arms exports to Turkey due to its aggression in north-east Syria, which could lead to a humanitarian crisis, as well as challenging international efforts to defeat Isis. “This is not the action we expected from an ally. It is reckless. It is counterproductive and plays straight into the hands of Russia, and indeed the Assad regime,” said Raab to fellow MPs.
According to The Guardian, Raab also said the UK would consider imposing further economic sanctions over Turkey but he doubts that such action would be effective in ending Ankara’s aggression in Syria.
It was more than a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw his troops from north-eastern Syria. Raab believes this move sent the wrong message to Erdogan. On Erdogan’s threat to flood Europe with Syrian refugees, Raab said: ‘This is not the kind of language we expect from a Nato ally.”
In discussions about the unstable situation in Syria with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said arms suspensions showed “many Nato allies are condemning the military operation in northern Syria.”
Meanwhile, Erdogan said Turkey “totally rejected and condemned the decisions taken and calls made by the EU and this will not stop us from fulfilling our military attacks.” Erdogan insisted he would continue with his military actions against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which he considers a terrorist group, until his objectives are accomplished. Erdogan wants to establish a safe zone stretching across northern Syria, into which he can relocate 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.