Turkey’s deputy foreign minister reveals UK has lifted ban on arms sales to Turkey

Levent Kenez/Stockholm

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakcı told a meeting of the parliamentary foreign relations committee on February 17 that the UK had lifted a ban on arms sales to Turkey that had been imposed with European Union countries following a unilateral Turkish offensive in northern Syria in 2019, information kept secret from the public.

Explaining that Turkey faced obstacles in the purchase of weapons, Kaymakcı said that was also the case before the 2019 military operation and that it was instrumental in Turkey’s strengthening of its own industry. defense.

Kaymakcı said they were trying to overcome barriers to arms sales and cited the removal of the UK arms sales ban as an example.

Faruk Kaymakcı, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of EU-Turkey Relations

It was first claimed in early February that the UK had lifted a ban on arms sales to Turkey, but this has not been confirmed or denied by authorities. With Kaymakci’s statement at the committee meeting, it was confirmed for the first time by a senior diplomat that the ban had been lifted.

According to Britain Express daily, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the resumption of normal licensing in December.

The UK government has said licenses will only be issued if the applicant can “demonstrate conclusively that the goods will not be used in northeast Syria”; However, according to the Express report, it is unclear how British trade officials could determine whether the weapons were used in Syria or not.

According to Kaymakcı, significant progress has been made in negotiations with the Netherlands and Germany on the issue. However, the Dutch government announced last October that the processing of license applications for the export of military goods or dual-use goods for military use to Turkey would resume on the condition that they are not used in the north of Syria. Kaymakcı may have meant that they were trying to get the bans lifted without any restrictions.

Without naming names, Kaymakcı added that some Nordic countries have started to take a step back from the ban. Norway, Finland and Sweden ban all arms sales to Turkey. Sweden proposed tougher sanctions for Turkey in 2019. It later turned out that the Swedish government records show Sweden was not selling real arms to the Turkish government at the time.

The part of the speech delivered by Deputy Foreign Minister Kaymakcı during the meeting of the Turkish Parliamentary Committee on arms sales bans:

modified kaymakci (1)

Kaymakcı claimed that the reason for the change in attitude of the countries that imposed the ban was that they saw that Turkey’s operation in northern Syria was also preventing illegal and irregular migration.

EU leaders have been harshly criticized by rights advocates who say they are turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in return for Turkey’s efforts to keep refugees in its territory . The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prevents refugees from entering Europe in exchange for EU money, and from time to time Erdoğan creates artificial crises to increase his bargaining power.

On October 14, 2019, the countries of the European Union Agreed to limit arms exports to Turkey following its offensive in northern Syria, with relevant ministers saying they had agreed to “commit to strong national positions regarding their policy of arms exports to Turkey”. However, the EU avoided the legally binding embargo on Turkey demanded by the Netherlands and Sweden.

Turkey carried out four military operations in northern Syria between 2017 and 2019 and invaded some areas near the border. Turkey wanted to prevent the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia that Turkey says is the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), from becoming a bigger threat to itself in strengthening after the military success of the YPG against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or Daesh).

According to information obtained by Nordic Monitor, military experts believe it is not easy to determine whether weapons purchased from European countries are being used in northern Syria. They also state that certain military materials constitute critical elements of strategic weapons.

For example, Ceri Gibbons, an activist with Brighton Against the Arms Trade, revealed that the British company EDO MBM, now a subsidiary of the American company L3Harris, supplied bomb release mechanisms and associated technology which were used by the Turkish arms company Baykar to produce Turkey’s first armed drone, the Bayraktar TB2.

According to figures announced by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based organization working to end the international arms trade, since a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 and a crackdown on opposition groups, the UK has approved the permanent export of a unique individual. Licenses (SIEL) worth £806m for arms exports to Turkey. A total of £1.3bn of SIEL has been approved since the Gezi Park protests in May 2013.

UK arms export licenses to Turkey 2008-2019. Source: CAAT

In addition, 114 Open Individual Export Licenses (OIEL) have been issued for exports to Turkey, allowing unlimited deliveries of the material specified in the license. Turkey remains a priority market for the British government’s arms export unit, according to CAAT.

Meanwhile, the UK and Turkey signed a free trade agreement on December 29, 2020, the first trade deal between the UK and another state since the UK left the EU. Brexit has not affected the UK’s trade relationship with Turkey thanks to historic free trade agreements, Chris Gaunt, president of the British Chamber of Commerce in Turkey (BCCT), told state-run Anadolu. .