Foreign ministers of the European Union countries agreed on Monday to limit arms sales to Turkey in response to its recently launched military offensive in northern Syria.
Additionally, they agreed to draw up economic sanctions over Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus.
“The EU28 urged Turkey again to cease its unilateral military action in North-East Syria and to withdraw its forces. Member states commit to strong national positions regarding their arms export policy to Turkey,” the ministers said in a joint statement after a meeting in Luxembourg.
The two EU decisions, which are meant to send strong messages to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were followed by Turkey’s full rejection and condemnation.
“We will seriously review our cooperation with the EU on certain areas due to its unlawful and biased attitude,” the Turkish foreign ministry declared in a statement on Monday.
A working group is expected to meet later this week to coordinate and review the EU member states’ positions in terms of curbing arms sales.
According to some EU diplomats, the decision of the Council of the European Union does not amount to a full embargo but its effect is the same, even allowing for faster implementation.
Several countries, including Germany, France, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Italy, and the Czech Republic, have already imposed arms embargoes of their own so far.
Turkey on Wednesday launched the long-promised incursion into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which it considers to be terrorists after the United States (US) pulled out its troops along the Syria-Turkey border. The offensive has already displaced some 100,000 people, according to the United Nations (UN).
On Sunday, Erdogan had said that threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by international powers would not stop the military operation against the YPG militants in Syria.
The EU28 also agreed to prepare a list of potential sanctions against Turkey, which dispatched two ships to drill in disputed waters considered by Cyprus to be part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), reaffirming EU’s solidarity with the Cyprus Republic.
The EU-member Cyprus has been urging its bloc partners to take action after Turkey which insists its actions to be in line with international law.
“The Council of the European Union 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,” the EU28 statement read.
Last year, the EU, Turkey’s top foreign investor, exported 45 million euros ($50 million) worth of arms and ammunition to the country with Italy being the main vendor, Eurostat said.
The EU’s statistics office also said that the bloc countries, led by France, sold aircraft to Turkey which amounted to 1.4 billion euros for the same period.
The Council of the European Union negotiates and adopts EU laws, together with the European Parliament, based on proposals from the European Commission and coordinates EU countries’ policies.