EU ministers consider reaction to Turkish offensive in Syria

EU ministers consider reaction to Turkish offensive in Syria

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EU foreign ministers are meeting to discuss an appropriate response to the deployment of Turkish troops in northeastern Syria. Sanctions — including an arms embargo — are on the table, but may take time to materialize.

The Turkish offensive in Syria tops the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday. Possible sanctions and an EU-wide arms embargo are likely to be discussed.

“This offensive is going to cause serious humanitarian devastation,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “France expects a specific demand to end the offensive and a firm position on arms exports to Turkey.”

The EU last week called on Turkey to “cease the unilateral military action.”

Franco-German response

In a press conference on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the offensive. “We have a common desire that this offensive ends,” Macron told journalists.  

He also warned that the move created “unbearable humanitarian situations” that raised the likelihood of the reemergence of IS. The Kurds were instrumental in shaking the extremist group’s hold on the region. 

Merkel agreed, saying the offensive “should be stopped.” Earlier on Sunday, she called for “immediate termination” of the military action in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Possible sanctions

Germany and France, along with Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands, have halted arms exports to Turkey. Turkey has said the move will have little effect. 

Sweden said it will seek an EU-wide embargo against Turkey in the talks and has also suggested taking measures against individuals.

However, DW’s Max Hofmann in Luxembourg said no decisions on concrete sanctions are expected during Monday’s talks. The EU was concerned that tough action may lead to Turkey “opening the ‘floodgates’ of migrants into Europe.” 

The Turkish operation

Turkey launched the incursion on Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria last week after US President Donald Trump pulled out US troops stationed there. Critics say the move will disrupt the fragile stability the region, harming and displacing thousands of civilians and paving the way for the “Islamic State” to reestablish itself in the region. 

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