Germany to Ban Arms Export to Turkey Amid Bombardment of Northern Syria

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces say Turkish offense has allowed the revival of ISIS, calls on Washington to uphold no-fly zone

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People hold banners reading 'No German weapons for Erdogan's dealings' during a protest in Cologne, October 12, 2019.
People hold banners reading 'No German weapons for Erdogan's dealings' during a protest in Cologne, October 12, 2019.Credit: David Young/dpa/AFP

Germany has banned arms exports to Turkey as a reaction to the country’s assault on the Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Turkey launched the military operation on Wednesday days after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, with air strikes and artillery hitting YPG militia positions near the border.

Turkey’s actions have drawn widespread international criticism and warnings from the United States and European Union of possible sanctions.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive... , the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for all military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria”, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, according to the spokeswoman.

The comment confirmed a report in weekly Bild Am Sonntag.

Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Friday that Germany expected all NATO partners - which include Turkey - to contribute to stabilizing the region.

Germany exported arms worth 243 million euros ($268 million) to Turkey in 2018, accounting for almost one third of its weapons exports, according to Bild Am Sonntag.

Kurdish fighters with the American-backed SDF during a funeral for comrades killed in fighting agains tISIS in Hukumya, Syria, 2017. Credit: IVOR PRICKETT / NYT

In the first four months of 2019, Turkey received weapons from Germany worth 184 million euros, making it the biggest recipient country, the paper said.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said a Turkish attack in northern Syria had revived Islamic State and called on allied states that helped fight the jihadist group to close off air space to Turkish war planes.

In a televised statement, senior SDF official Redur Xelil said the SDF was continuing to cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State even as it must now also confront the Turkish attack on northern Syria.

“The Turkish invasion is no longer threatening the revival of Daesh (Islamic State), rather it has revived it and activated its cells in Qamishli and Hasaka and all the other areas,” Xelil said, noting car bombs in each of the cities in the last day.

“We are still cooperating until now with the international coalition to fight Daesh. We are now fighting on two fronts: one front against the Turkish invasion and a front against Daesh,” he said.

Kurdish protesters carry a banner during a demonstration against Turkey's military action in northeastern Syria, in Berlin, Germany, October 12, 2019. Credit: \ CHRISTIAN MANG/ REUTERS

Xelil said SDF fighters who had been protecting coalition forces in Syria for four years were now “being martyred by Turkish warplanes in front of the eyes of the allies” whom he said had “suddenly and without forewarning abandoned us”.

It was an apparent reference to a U.S. move to withdraw forces from part of the border now being targeted by Turkey.

“We don’t want them to send their troops to the frontlines ... all we want is that they close the air space to Turkish planes and they can do this easily”, he said.

Noting Islamic State car bomb attacks in Qamishli and Hasaka and Turkish shelling of a jail in Qamishli that the SDF said allowed some ISIS detainees to escape, Xelil said: “Despite all of this the world is still ignoring this reality and ignoring this coming hell”.

If the Turkish attack continued, SDF priorities would change with regards to guarding ISIS detainees and “we will move to protect our cities and our people”, Xelil said in answer to a question.