EU leaders to discuss arms embargo on Turkey

EU leaders plan to discuss a possible arms embargo on Turkey with NATO allies and Washington, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday, after pressure from Greece, Reuters reports.

Mrs Merkel spoke after this week’s European Council summit where the bloc’s 27 leaders agreed to prepare limited sanctions on Turkish individuals over an energy exploration dispute with Greece and Cyprus but postponed any harsher steps until March.

“We also spoke about how questions about arms exports must be discussed within NATO. We said that we want to coordinate with the new U.S. administration about Turkey,” she told a news conference.

The EU and NATO are planning to hold a summit with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden after he takes office in January.

EU governments are adopting a hardening stance on Turkey, a NATO ally, candidate for EU membership and host to Syrians fleeing civil war who would otherwise seek refuge in Europe.

But member states have also grown increasingly critical of Turkey’s involvement in Libya and its purchase of a Russian air defence system, for which the United States is already poised to impose sanctions on Turkey.

Tensions have also flared over Turkey’s decision to send oil-and-gas drilling ships to waters off southern Cyprus where Greek Cypriot authorities had already awarded hydrocarbon exploration rights to Italian and French companies.

The EU exported only €45 million worth of arms and ammunition to Turkey in 2018, including missiles, according to EU statistics office Eurostat, but sales of aircraft amounted to several billion euros.

EU governments including Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said last year they were halting or restricting arms export licence approvals for Turkey.

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