EU countries agree on arms export ban against Turkey

EU member states on Monday agreed to suspend weapons exports to Turkey in response to Ankara's offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northern Syria, but fell short of implementing a formal EU-wide arms embargo.

Member states in a statement released after a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Luxembourg, condemned Turkey's military operation in Syria and committed to "strong national positions regarding their arms export policy to Turkey," Reuters reported.

"Turkey is a key partner of the European Union and a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and the region. Turkey’s security concerns in North-East Syria should be addressed through political and diplomatic means, not with military action, and in accordance with international humanitarian law,'' the statement said. 

The bloc’s 28 member countries also agreed to prepare a list of potential sanctions over Turkey's drilling activities in the east Mediterranean off the divided island of Cyprus.

The Council of the European Union in a statement it issued on Monday said it had

 agreed on a ''framework regime of restrictive measures targeting natural and legal persons responsible for or involved in the illegal drilling activity of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean is put in place.''

Turkey is at odds with Cyprus and Greece over the potentially rich hydrocarbon reserves in the region. Ankara says the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the north of the island, which only it recognises, has a right to a share in the reserves, while the Cypriot government says any proceeds from gas drilling will be shared fairly after a peace deal is established.

Two Turkish drillships, accompanied by navy vessels, are anchored in areas around Cyprus, where they are exploring for hydrocarbons in defiance on their neighbours and the European Union. 

The decision by EU countries to stop the export of arms to Turkey follows a move by several countries, including France, Germany and Sweden, to impose arms embargoes of their own since the Turkish offensive began on Oct. 9.

Turkey launched the offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, to create a safe zone in northern Syria that is cleared of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an existential threat due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.

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