Jean-Yves Le Drian gestures as he speaks after a meeting of the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council in Moscow, Russia. Filephoto/ Reuters
European Union foreign ministers must again condemn Turkey’s offensive in Syria, call for an arms embargo on Ankara and request that the United States hold a meeting of the coalition against Daesh, France’s foreign minister said on Monday.
The EU, which Turkey still aspires to join, had already condemned the Turkish air and artillery strikes on Kurdish militia in northeast Syria but has been infuriated by President Tayyip Erdogan’s threats to send refugees to Europe.
“This offensive is going to cause serious humanitarian devastation,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
“France expects from this meeting ... a specific demand to end the offensive ... a firm position on arms exports to Turkey and ... that the United States holds a meeting of the international coalition (against Daesh),” he told reporters.
His comments came hours before the French soccer team were due to host Turkey for a Euro 2020 qualifying match. There have been calls in France to cancel the match.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Turkish offensive, which had resulted in an alliance of the Kurds and Syria’s Bashir al-Assad, had turned the things on their head and made matters more difficult.
“We are also fearing, and we are seeing it already, that this is leading to a strengthening of Daesh, which we absolutely must prevent,” Maas told reporters, referring to Daesh.
Germany and France have already suspended arms exports to Turkey and Maas said the European Union needed to united in their calls to Ankara.
The EU exported some 45 million euros ($50 million) in arms and ammunition to Turkey last year, according to the EU’s statistics office Eurostat, with Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany the main exporters. Data for military aircraft was not immediately available.
“We do not wish to support this war and do not want to make arms available,” Maas said.
“But it is important to stay in dialogue with Turkey in order to influence it, but if that does not succeed then we have to have further measures in reserve,” he continued.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said he favoured ending arms sales to Turkey. Asked if was angry with US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, which coincided with the Turkish offensive, Borrell said.
“I am not angry. I’m just taking a rational position, in a very difficult situation in which every EU country will be, I hope, against Turkish actions.”
France said on Monday it was taking measures to ensure the safety of its military and civilian personnel in northeastern Syria as the United States begins to withdraw its forces
Turkey said on Thursday it would stop keeping hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in its territory after an air strike on Idlib in neighbouring Syria killed 33 Turkish soldiers.
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