European Union nations commit to arms export ban against Turkey
LUXEMBOURG — European Union nations vented outrage Monday at Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria against the Kurds and joined France and Germany in banning arms sales to Ankara, a rare move against a NATO ally for many of them.
Many EU foreign ministers were looking beyond a strong statement condemning the military operation that has destabilized the whole region and wanted to make sure their move would carry some sting.
They also prepared sanctions against Turkish companies and individuals involved in gas drilling in east Mediterranean waters where EU-member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights and has licensed European energy companies to carry out a hydrocarbons search. The sanctions, which Cypriot officials said may include an asset freeze, travel bans and a sales ban on material used in drilling, could be implemented at short notice. France and Cyprus are conducting naval manoeuvres there now.
Over the years, Turkey has become increasingly less dependent on European nations for its defence needs and it was unclear what the impact of such a measure would be beyond applying diplomatic pain.
“There is a strong commitment by all members of the council to take the actions required to stop selling arms to Turkey,” Josep Borrell, the Spanish foreign minister who is slated to become EU foreign policy chief next month, told The Associated Press.
Relations between the bloc and Turkey under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have steadily worsened over the years, especially after he likened some German moves to Nazi practices.
And even though both sides agreed upon a deal in 2016 to stop migrants from travelling westward from Turkey to the European mainland, Erdogan is now wielding that like a cudgel. Since his operation in northern Syria began last week, he has sought to quell Europe criticism of it by warning that he could “open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said Monday that “we should not cave in to blackmail.”