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Germany’s military equipment sales to Turkey hit record low in 2021

A Turkish military convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles passes near the city of Idlib, in northwestern Syria, near the Syria-Turkey border, on February 8, 2020. Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP

The German government approved the sale of military equipment worth 11 million euros to Turkey in 2021, the lowest volume recorded since 1999, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported on Friday.

According to the DW Türkçe report, the German Federal Government provided the information in response to a parliamentary question posed by Sevim Dağdelen, an MP from the Left Party, and said naval exports comprised 6 million euros of the 11 million euros in sales.

For comparison, between 2017 and 2021, during ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s last term in office, Turkey imported 4.5 billion euros worth of arms and military equipment from Germany.

Following Turkey’s operation in northeastern Syria in October 2019, Germany restricted arms exports to Turkey, deciding not to sell weapons that could be used in the Syrian war.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had told the General-Anzeiger newspaper in July 2020 that Germany was not approving weapons sales to Turkey, except for vehicles and equipment used by the naval forces.

“What Turkey has done in the Syrian war is unacceptable to us,” Maas said at the time.

Ankara launched the Operation Peace Spring offensive on Oct. 9, 2019, targeting the People’s Protection Units (YPG) along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The YPG, a Syrian Kurdish armed group that played a crucial role in the coalition task force set up to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is viewed by Ankara as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus a terrorist organization. The country has established direct control over swathes of land in northern Syria through successive offensives against the YPG since 2018.

Rights groups and organizations that monitor the region have since accused Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed rebels of committing war crimes against the local population during the cross-border offensives.

Following the Peace Spring operation in 2019, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden imposed arms embargoes on Turkey. France has restricted the sale of defense and aviation sub-systems, while Italy and Britain have banned the sale of certain products. Germany has suspended plans to upgrade Turkey’s Leopard-2 tanks and restricted the sale of other equipment. French-Italian manufacturer Eurosam suspended talks for co-production of the SAMP/T air defense system with Turkey after the 2019 operation.

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