Activists protest plans of German military technology group Rheinmetall to build a tank factory in Turkey. Protesters in April hold a sign saying ‘No armor for Erdogan.’ Photo: John MacDougall/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Germany has suspended all major arms exports to Turkey amid concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, while Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister said the decision will make “Europe’s future more vulnerable.”
“We have put on hold all big requests (for arms exports) that Turkey has sent to us, and these are really not a few,” said Minister Sigmar Gabriel during a panel discussion put on by German daily Handelsblatt, Reuters reported.
He added that under NATO, Berlin is obliged to send arms to allies if requested, but said this is currently not possible. Exceptions would include exports tied to international agreements or vehicles, not weapons, according to Reuters.
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister, Omer Celic, speaking in London on Tuesday responded to Germany’s decision.
“This decision will weaken Turkey’s fight against terrorism, and weakening the Turkish fight would mean making Europe’s future more vulnerable,” he said, according to Reuters. “Germany must leave security issues out of political discussions.”
“The German foreign minister must formulate his comments seriously,” Celik added. “Those arms are being used in the struggle against the PKK and ISIS.”
Relations have become increasingly strained between Ankara and Berlin in the wake of the failed coup attempt in Turkey last year as Germany has been critical of what it sees as a deterioration of the rule of law.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany may have to “rethink” relations with Ankara in response to arrests of German nationals for what Berlin says are “political reasons.” As many as 12 Germans are in jail in Turkey for similar reasons.
In a recent televised debate ahead of elections in German, Merkel said she would cancel Turkey’s EU membership talks. Ankara hit back accusing her of inciting racism.
Turkish officials have also accused Germany of “Nazi-like” tactics when Turkish politicians were banned from campaigning in Germany ahead of its constitution referendum earlier this year. Germany issued the ban citing security concerns.
Despite their strained relations, Ankara has approved 99 permits for arms exports to Turkey totaling more than 25 million euros since the beginning of 2017, according to the ministry for economic affairs. This is a significant decline over exports from the year before. In the first eight months of 2016, Germany approved 158 permits with a total value of nearly 70 million euros.
Update: Added quotes from the Turkish official