Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

A man waves a Syrian opposition flag reading ‘Free Syria’ on Sunday in Akcakale as smoke rises in the background. (AFP)
Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.


Harvard students walk out of Israeli ambassador talk

Updated 15 November 2019

Harvard students walk out of Israeli ambassador talk

  • The Israeli consul general was giving a talk at Harvard Law School on the settlement project
  • Students held signs that read “Settlements are a war crime” as they silently left the room

DUBAI: Dozens of Harvard students walked out of a talk by Israeli ambassador, Dani Dayan, on the Legal Strategy of Israeli Settlements earlier this week.

They were holding signs which read “Settlements are a war crime” as they silently left the room.

Dayan called the protesters “a bunch of losers” in a tweet after the lecture.

“I’m disappointed that the Harvard Law School would let this kind of propaganda for a colonial project for accumulation by dispossession be framed as “legal,”” a student organizer was quoted by the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (HCPSC).

“This is not only complicit but simply dishonest,” the student added.

Dayan, who is the Consul General of Israel in New York, advocates for the establishment and maintenance of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“Let us be clear, there is a consensus among the international community that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the student quoted by HCPSC said.