German Kurdish MP says Erdoğan government ‘serious threat’ to EU, calls for sanctions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a serious threat to the stability of the European Union and the wider region, German Kurdish lawmaker Helin Evrim Sommer told Ahval.

Sommer, an MP for Die Linke (the Left Party), said that her party has called for sanctions on Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), but rejected general economic sanctions that would affect the people as well.

“If the EU does not want to completely lose its political credibility, it should apply sanctions,” she said.

Turkey continued its natural gas exploration, and Erdoğan and his ally Devlet Bahçeli, far-right leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), broke international law when they visited the deserted town of Varosha in northern Cyprus, Sommer said. Varosha had been closed as part of a U.N.-endorsed buffer zone following a Greek-backed coup attempt and Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974.

In December, EU leaders agreed to blacklist individuals involved in Turkey’s drilling activities in the waters disputed with EU members Greece and Cyprus in the Mediterranean. Assets of two members of the Turkish Petroleum Corp (TPAO) were frozen, and their travel rights were restricted.

The EU would have rewarded Turkey with an updated customs union, visa exemptions for Turkish citizens and increased payments as part of a 2016 refugee deal if it ended its aggressive policies in the eastern Mediterranean, she said. “But there was no softening in Turkey’s policy. On the contrary, the provocations increased.”

The recent tensions with Greece, which have returned from the brink of military conflict, are proof that the Erdoğan government has become a serious threat to the stability of the entire region and the EU itself, Sommer said.

Turkey would use German-made arms, particularly those manufactured by ThyssenKrupp, if it clashed with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, Sommer said. “Turkey would hit EU member Greece with EU member Germany’s weapons.”

 “It is a historically proven fact that such regimes cannot be reined in by concessions,” she said. “Military cooperation with Ankara should be terminated immediately, and all arms exports to Turkey should be stopped.”

The German government approved around 22.9 million euros ($27.8 million) in arms exports to Turkey in 2020, around 2 percent of the total, according to a report by the dpa news agency on Sunday.

“Especially with its war against the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, Erdoğan’s government has long been the arsonist of the Middle East and has publicly violated international law,” Sommer said.

“So far, the EU, which has given an open check to the Erdoğan government's war policies in the Middle East by remaining passive, has realised that it cannot rein in the Erdoğan regime with statements such as “we condemn“ and “we are concerned“ when the war stands on its doorstep.”

The EU’s incompetence emboldens Erdoğan, who has made a habit of withdrawing ships from the eastern Mediterranean before EU discuss Turkey sanctions only to redeploy them afterwards, “as if in mockery”, Sommer said.

Germany remains committed to Turkey because the two countries’ commercial relations have “become much more profitable for Germany in recent years,” Sommer said. “So despite the Afrin operation in 2018, the German government increased exports to Turkey more than in other years with state guarantees called “Hermes Bürgschaft”.”

The lawmaker was referring to Operation Olive Branch, a military campaign Turkey launched against Kurdish forces controlling parts of northern Syria.

The EU has failed to come up with a right solution on the Syrian war or on refugees, Sommer said. The EU did not truly have a policy, instead relying on the refugee deal championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she said.

Ankara signed a 2016 deal with the EU to cut the influx of refugees from trying to enter the bloc through Turkey, in exchange for 6 billion euros in aid. As part of the agreement, the bloc promised to update the customs union between the EU and Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

It was wrong for Europe to demand Turkey to host refugees in return for billions of euros in funding, Sommer said.

“Erdoğan uses the agreement as a tool of blackmail, and Germany, which does not want to relive the refugee crisis of 2015, bows to Erdoğan and tolerates all policies of war and violence,” she said.