France and Germany halt arms exports to Turkey over Syria offensive

Boris Johnson expressed 'grave concern' over the Turkish operation but stopped short of announcing a weapons embargo

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France and Germany have announced a suspension of arms exports to Turkey in response to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military operation against Kurdish fighters in Syria.

The French government made the announcement on Saturday evening hours after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin had stopped exports to Ankara.

"Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in north-eastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria," Mr Maas told Bild am Sonntag.

Germany is one of Turkey's main arms suppliers. Bild reported that exports to Turkey totalled €242.8 million (Dh981m), nearly a third of all of Germany's weapons sales.

The French government said it was immediately halting “all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be used as part of the offensive in Syria”.

In response, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle that Berlin’s embargo would not deter the Turkish military operation.

"Even if our allies support the terrorist organisation, even if we are alone, even if an embargo is imposed, whatever they do, our struggle is directed against the terrorist organisation," he said, referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Supported by the US, the YPG was the backbone of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which uprooted much of ISIS from Syria.

Ankara believes the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than 30 years.

Mr Cavusoglu repeated a threat made by Mr Erdogan to "open the doors" for more than three million Syrian refugees in Turkey to enter Europe.

France and Germany joined fellow European nations Finland, Norway and The Netherlands, who announced a suspension of arms sales to Turkey earlier in the week.

The EU has spoken out about the Turkish offensive, which began on October 9.

The bloc could decide to impose a blanket arms embargo at a meeting of European leaders on Thursday and Friday, but the decision would have to be unanimous among all 28 member states.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed "grave concern" about the military operation in a call with Mr Erdogan on Saturday evening but stopped short of a weapons embargo.

"The prime minister was clear that the UK cannot support Turkey’s military action," a spokesman for Mr Johnson said.

"He urged the president to end the operation and enter into dialogue."

There was a demonstration in London organised by Kurdish groups on Sunday afternoon, a day after thousands marched in France, Germany and Greece to protest against the offensive.