Arms embargoes won't stop Turkey's Syria operation: Erdogan

Updated October 13, 2019

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In this file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party's provincial leaders in Ankara, Turkey, November 17, 2017. — AP/File
In this file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party's provincial leaders in Ankara, Turkey, November 17, 2017. — AP/File

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria.

“After we launched our operation, we have faced threats like economic sanctions and embargoes on weapons sales. Those who think they can make Turkey turn back with these threats are gravely mistaken,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

France and Germany had said on Saturday that they were suspending arms exports to Turkey over its offensive in Syria against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist off-shoot of Kurdish rebels in its own territory, but Western powers used the Kurds as the main ground force against the militant Islamic State group.

Erdogan said he spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Wednesday and raised the issue of the arms embargo.

“I told her to explain it to me. Are we really allies at the heart of NATO, or has the terrorist group (the YPG) been accepted into NATO without my being informed?” he said.

He also rejected the idea of any mediation between Turkey and the YPG.

“When did you see a state sit at the same table with a terror group?” he said.

Erdogan said the Turkish military and its Syrian proxies now controlled the border town of Ras al-Ain, while Tal Abyad was being besieged from two directions.

Merkel urges Erdogan to immediately end Syria offensive

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt Turkey's offensive in northern Syria immediately, warning it could spark further destabilisation of the region and a resurgence of the militant IS group.

In a phone call with Erdogan, Merkel “spoke in favour for an immediate end to the military operation”, the chancellor's office said in a statement.

The operation threatens to drive large parts of the population from their homes, she said, noting that it would also risk “destabilisation of the region and lead to a resurgence of the IS”.