German FM says Berlin has halted arms exports to Turkey

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday that Germany has halted major arms sales to Turkey due to the worsening human rights situation in Turkey and the strained relations between the two NATO allies.

Gabriel’s remarks came during a panel discussion organized by the Handelsblatt daily, after another German couple of Turkish origin was reported to have been detained in Turkey on Sunday. “We have put on hold all big requests [for arms exports] that Turkey has sent to us, and there are not just a few,” Gabriel said.

While Berlin has to send arms to a NATO ally when requested, it is not possible under current circumstances except when the request concerns vehicles and when there is an international agreement, added Gabriel.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected a total ban on arms exports to Turkey on Tuesday, saying that such sales had already been restricted somewhat, but Turkey remained a key ally in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Merkel told broadcaster NDR that Germany would decide on arms sales requests from Turkey on a case-by-case basis. She also said she saw no reason to impose a travel warning for Germans travelling to Turkey, but said Berlin would keep its options open.

Freezing Germany’s weapons exports to Turkey would only strengthen the local Turkish arms industry, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday. Çavuşoğlu was responding to remarks by his German counterpart and said that “These kinds of approaches actually cause the strengthening of our own defense industry,” Çavuşoğlu told a joint press conference in Ankara with his visiting Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“In this sense we increase national and local production in all areas. We produce our own fighter jets and helicopters. Turkey is never desperate,” he added. Çavusoğlu called Gabriel his “friend,” but said his approach ill-suited the foreign minister of a country on the eve of general elections. “We understand they started with 30 percent in the polls and now his party’s support fell to 22 percent. But I’m not responsible for this. He’s responsible for it, he was the head of the party until recently,” he said and added that “We find Merkel’s approach correct and more mature. Acting in good sense even in an election atmosphere is our duty,” he said.

As a reaction to Germany’s move, Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik has claimed on Tuesday that Germany’s putting arms exports to Turkey on hold will seriously damage fight against anti-terrorism, which will in turn pose threat to Europe’s security. Çelik said that Turkey fights terrorist groups to not only protect its own borders, but also Europe’s. “This [To put arms exports to Turkey on hold] will weaken Turkey’s anti-terror fight, which will in turn pose a threat to Germany and Europe’s security” Çelik said.

Çelik has also said that Gabriel has to be more careful when he makes such remarks. “What does Turkey use these weapons for? It uses these weapons in counterterrorism, in fight against Daesh and the PKK. As such, these comments directly weaken Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts.”

“Terror groups such as Daesh and the PKK are now active across EU capitals. This should not be forgotten: With this effective struggle Turkey is protecting its borders. However, at the same time it protects security and borders of the EU,” said Çelik.

Ankara’s ties with Berlin deteriorated rapidly especially after a failed coup last year since Turkey accused Germany of harboring people linked to the Gülen movement who fled a government witch-hunt back home. The ties became further strained after Turkey put several German citizens, including journalists and human rights defenders, in pretrial detention. At least 12 German nationals are currently being held in Turkish jails, the victims of politically motivated detentions.

ERDOĞAN: TURKEY HAS SIGNED DEAL TO BUY RUSSIAN S-400 MISSILE SYSTEM

Meanwhile, amid tension between Turkey and the US, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said Ankara has signed a deal with Russia to buy a S-400 missile defense system despite opposition from NATO allies, the Hürriyet daily reported.

“Signatures have been affixed for the purchase of S-400s from Russia. A deposit has also been paid as far as I know,” Erdoğan said.

According to AFP, Moscow confirmed the agreement, with Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s adviser for military and technical cooperation, saying, “The contract has been signed and is being prepared for implementation.”

Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Director Dmitry Shugaev said on August 24 that all decisions regarding the delivery of Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system to Turkey are in line with Moscow’s geopolitical and strategic interests.

On August 1, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that Ankara procuring an S-400 anti-missile system from Russia concerns the Pentagon. “Our only concern about it is one of interoperability. Turkey is a NATO ally. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea for allies to buy interoperable equipment,” said Davis, expressing Pentagon concerns about the damage Russian-made systems could cause to US joint operations with NATO ally Turkey.

Pentagon officials said their concern is about the potential of confusion on the battlefield between Ankara and alliance members due to the use of Russian systems by a NATO ally.

Reacting to critics from the West, Erdoğan in July said “Greece, a member of NATO, has been using the S-300 for years.”

“You [NATO] neither share technology and respond to demands for joint production, nor present an offer that is financially effective. Hence, you are not in a position to say ‘Don’t buy a non-NATO system’,” said Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık in a statement in April. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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