Netherlands suspends arms sales to NATO ally Turkey

Netherlands becomes second NATO ally to suspend arms sales to Turkey over Syria offensive
3 min read
10 October, 2019
The Netherlands has suspended arms sales to NATO ally Turkey amid growing condemnation of Ankara's assault on Kurdish-held areas of Syria.
Several NATO countries have been critical of Turkey's actions against the Kurds [Getty]

The Netherlands is to freeze all arms sales to Turkey as a result of Ankara's offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, the Dutch foreign ministry said on Friday.

"The Netherlands have now decided to withhold all licence applications for the export of military goods to  Turkey pending the course of the situation," the ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

The Dutch are the second NATO ally to suspend arms sales to Turkey after Norway announced the same on Thursday. 

"Given that the situation is complex and changing quickly, the foreign ministry as a precautionary measure will not handle any new demands for exports of defence material or material for multiple uses... to Turkey," Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in an email to AFP.

Also read: Turkey in clampdown of critics of 'Operation Spring of Peace' Syria campaign

An increasing number of states have condemned Turkey’s actions in Syria. Fellow NATO allies France, Italy, and the Netherlands summoned their respective Turkish ambassadors to voice their concerns, while US Senators have proposed tough sanctions against Ankara.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Turkey to end its operation as quickly as possible, saying Ankara was putting "millions of people at humanitarian risk".

He added that the SDF is "responsible in front of the international community for helping [the Islamic State group] in build its Caliphate".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reacted strongly to the international criticism, threatening to "flood Europe" with refugees if it termed Turkey's offensive as an "invasion".

Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million refugees from the eight-year conflict in Syria - the highest number in the world. 

Turkey's offensive has raised fears of a new humanitarian crisis in the region and concerns that thousands of militants from the Islamic State group could use the offensive as an opportunity to escape.

The operation has so far focused on the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ain, and President Erdogan has said that 109 "militants" have been killed.

Turkey has suffered casualties of its own, when five people - including one baby - were killed in suspected Kurdish shelling in the Turkish towns of Akcakale and Ceylanpinar.

Dubbed "Operation Spring of Peace", Ankara's offensive in northern Syria began Thursday with the aim of creating a 150km long and 25km deep "safe zone" on the other side of the Turkish border, currently occupied by the SDF.

This would provide Turkey with a buffer zone and allow for the repatriation of the country's three million Syrian refugees, Ankara claims.

Turkish bombing has hit towns in northern Syria, while a ground offensive by Ankara's proxy forces have so far seen a number of Syrian border villages captured.

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