EU to discuss arms sales to Turkey with NATO and new US administration, Germany’s Merkel says

11 Dec, 2020

The EU will consult with allies in the US-led NATO bloc and new US administration on weapon sales to Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response to a Greek push for an arms embargo on Ankara.

Merkel was speaking in the wake of an EU leaders’ summit, which agreed to prepare limited sanctions against Turkish individuals over its Mediterranean energy exploration dispute with Greece and Cyprus. The bloc stopped short of introducing restrictions against sectors of the Turkish economy or an arms embargo wanted by Athens. However, such measures could still be introduced in March if Ankara remains uncooperative.

“We also spoke about how questions about arms exports must be discussed within NATO. We said that we want to coordinate with the new US administration about Turkey,” Merkel said during a press conference.

The European Union and NATO, which includes many European nations, are planning to hold a summit with Joe Biden if he takes office from Donald Trump in January.

Greece has been demanding “meaningful sanctions” and an arms embargo on Ankara for months after competing claims on energy-rich continental shelves in the east Mediterranean saw the two neighbors mobilize their warships and planes.

Before the summit, Greek media reported that the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was going to warn his EU counterparts at the meeting that the weapons they were selling to Turkey could end up being used against them.

Athens is especially concerned about German-designed T-214 submarines. Turkey, which is building them locally, expects the delivery of components for six vessels from Berlin.

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Brussels has grown increasingly unhappy about what it calls Turkish “expansionist” policies, which include not only the dispute with Greece, but also Turkey’s involvement in the fighting in Libya and its support of Azerbaijan in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,

But the bloc couldn’t agree on sanctions against Ankara for a long time as Turkey also has NATO membership, aspires to join the EU, and hosts almost four million refugees from Syria, preventing them from trying to make it to Europe.

In 2019, Brussels had already decided to limit arms sales to Turkey, but a bloc-wide ban still hasn’t been introduced. Some EU governments, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, announced last year that they were halting or restricting arms deliveries license approvals for Ankara.

The top EU exporters of arms to Turkey between 2015 and 2019 were Italy and Spain, according the data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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