EU condemns Turkey, but stops short of arms ban

Updated October 15, 2019

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In this photo taken on September 8, 2019, US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkish troops. — AFP
In this photo taken on September 8, 2019, US troops walk past a Turkish military vehicle during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkish troops. — AFP

LUXEMBOURG: The EU on Monday condemned Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in northern Syria but stopped short of imposing the formal arms embargo some countries have urged.

Several European states including Germany and France have already halted arms exports to Turkey and there were calls for an official EU-wide ban.

But senior diplomats said that Turkey’s membership of Nato made such an embargo extremely difficult.

Instead, EU member states agreed to the “strict application” of their existing common policy on arms exports, which includes a provision that they should not be approved where they may “contribute to regional instability”.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the commitment, agreed by all 28 foreign ministers at talks in Luxembourg, would have the “same effect” as an arms embargo but was quicker and easier to implement.

But after repeated EU calls for Ankara to halt its operation went ignored, she was downbeat about the chances that the latest move would convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change course.

“I’m glad that on this occasion the European Union and member states were not only able to speak with one voice but also to act in unison and we take a further step. Will that be enough? We’ll see,” she told reporters.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was even more pessimistic, saying Erdogan was not counting on Europe to supply his forces.

Turkey quickly hit back Monday — the sixth day of the assault — accusing Brussels of protecting “terror elements”.

“It is unacceptable for the EU to display an approach that protects terror elements,” Ankara’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We totally reject and condemn the decisions and calls made to our country,” it added German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said EU countries had agreed “that they will no longer authorise arms exports to Turkey”.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019