LUXEMBOURG – The European Union’s foreign ministers condemned unanimously on Monday Turkey’s military action in northern Syria, but fell short of adopting an arms embargo, something that is made more difficult by Turkey’s NATO membership.
The EU’s top diplomats were gathered in Brussels for a meeting that centered on the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, which came after the United States withdrew troops from the region, where they had been offering support to Kurdish militias in the fight against the Islamic State terror organization.
“The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance,” a statement said.
“It makes the prospects for the UN-led political process to achieve peace in Syria far more difficult. It also significantly undermines the progress achieved so far by the Global Coalition to defeat Da’esh (the IS), stressing that Da’esh remains a threat to European security as well as Turkey’s, regional and international security.”
The EU acknowledged that several members states, such as France and Germany, had already decided to halt weapons sales to Turkey in the wake of the operation.
“Member States commit to strong national positions regarding their arms export policy to Turkey on the basis of the provision of the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms export control, including the strict application of criteria 4 on regional stability.”
A European Council working group is due to meet again later in the week to discuss the issue further.
Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish forces in the north of Syria opened up a new front in the Syrian Civil War.
Turkish forces and allied Syrian opposition groups have pushed into pockets of territory in the north of the country as Ankara seeks to establish a “safe zone” free of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a former Washington ally that the Turkish government regards as a terror group.
Heavily outgunned, the Kurdish authorities have struck a deal with Damascus and Syrian regime troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have deployed in several areas of northern Syria to push back the Turkish offensive.