Germany plays arms exports trump card against Turkey
BERLIN / LONDON
Germany has put all major arms exports to Turkey on hold, stepping up the ongoing dispute between the two countries.
The decision prompted a swift reaction from Ankara, with Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik telling reporters on Sept. 12 that it weakens Ankara’s fight against terrorism and makes Europe more vulnerable.
“We have put on hold all big requests [for arms exports] that Turkey has sent us and these are really not a few,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sept. 11 said during a panel discussion organized by German business daily Handelsblatt.
The comments came after a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Berlin said another German couple was believed to have been detained in Turkey on political charges.
Gabriel, a senior member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, pointed out that Berlin was obliged to send arms to a NATO ally, if requested.
But he said this was currently not possible so that nearly all arms exports were put on ice.
Gabriel said there were only a few exemptions, such as if the government’s decision was tied to international agreements or if the requested exports were about vehicles, not weapons.
Commenting on the move, Çelik said during a meeting in London that “the German foreign minister must formulate his comments seriously.”
“This decision will weaken Turkey’s fight against terrorism, and weakening the Turkish fight would mean making Europe’s future more vulnerable,” he said, adding that the mentioned arms are being used in the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Germany must leave security issues out of political discussions,” Çelik added.
In addition, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said his German counterpart’s statements on an arms embargo were "not appropriate" for a foreign minister.
He told reporters that Turkey found Merkel's stance more suitable, and added that attempts to drum up support by attacking Turkey ahead of Germany's election later this month would yield no result.
Turkish land force troops, Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Teams (MAK), and special forces use various light machine guns produced by Germany’s Heckler-Koch. Heckler-Koch’s Universal Submachine Guns (UMP) and MP7A1 are on the inventory of the police and gendarmerie special forces.
Turkey’s Leopard tanks, which were vastly used in the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria which ended in March, are also German made and a lack of exports from Germany may lead to replacement parts problems.
Relations between Ankara and Berlin have recently been at odds over a number of issues, particularly in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup.
On the eve of the Sept. 24 general elections, the German Chancellor said during a televised election debate that she would seek an end to Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union. Before that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had urged Turks in the country not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or the Greens, as they were “enemies of Turkey.”
Turks can safely come to Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sept. 10, dismissing a warning from Ankara that its citizens should take care when travelling there due to “an increase in anti-Turkish sentiment.”
A much-anticipated visit from German lawmakers to German troops based in the Konya Air Base in Turkey took place on Sept. 8 under the NATO flag on Sept. 8, Turkish officials stated, after a months-long row between Ankara and Berlin over the modalities of the visit.
Turkey had previously denied Germany’s attempt to visit troops deployed at the İncirlik Air Base near Adana, which had pushed Berlin to withdraw its soldiers and Tornado aircraft from the base.
Berlin’s arms move came only one day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Ankara has already paid a deposit to Moscow for the purchase of the S-400 anti-ballistic missile system, despite opposition from its NATO allies.