German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week vowed to halt weapons exports to Turkey due to its offensive against Syrian Kurds in northern Syria. But the Economics Ministry now says the ban isn’t so far-reaching.
Germany’s arms export ban to Turkey only applies to weapons and other military assets that could be used during Ankara’s offensive in northern Syria, the Economics Ministry clarified on Saturday.
The ministry was responding to a request by the socialist Left party following comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Thursday, Merkel warned Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, that a 10-day-old incursion by Ankara’s military into Syrian territory to push out a Syrian Kurd militia was “a humanitarian drama with enormous geopolitical consequences.”
Merkel said ‘No weapons’
Amid concerns the offensive would displace tens of thousands more Syrians, the chancellor said that “under the current conditions,” the German government would not provide any weapons to Turkey.
Merkel was standing behind an agreement reached by the EU’s 28 foreign ministers on Monday to limit arms sales to Ankara.
Her comments led to speculation about a total German arms ban similar to one levied against Saudi Arabia last November.
However, in its statement on Saturday, the Economics Ministry insisted: “The Federal Government is not issuing new permits for armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria.”
Reacting to Merkel’s comments, Left party MP Stefan Liebich accused the chancellor of deceiving the public.
Last year, arms sales to Ankara totaled €242.8 million ($271 million), almost a third of the German defense sector’s total production, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency.
In the first eight months of 2019, arms sales rose to €250.4 billion, the highest since 2005.
The number of export permits handed out by Berlin has more than tripled to 182 so far this year, compared to 58 for the whole of last year.
Safe zone protected by truce
Turkey launched its military incursion into northern Syria on October 9 to ensure a 20-mile (30-kilometer) “safe zone” along its border, which includes major Kurdish-held towns and cities.
Ankara seeks to push back the YPG, a Kurdish militia that led an alliance of US-backed fighters to expel the “Islamic State” (IS) armed group from Syria.
Turkey deems the YPG a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
The offensive was widely condemned internationally, which prompted a US-brokered cease-fire that began on Thursday and is to last five days.