Germany freezes tank upgrade for Turkey amid Afrin op, Ankara says it expects ‘solidarity’ from ally

Germany freezes tank upgrade for Turkey amid Afrin op, Ankara says it expects ‘solidarity’ from ally

Germany freezes tank upgrade for Turkey amid Afrin op, Ankara says it expects ‘solidarity’ from ally
Germany is freezing the modernization of Turkey’s Leopard tanks, a government spokesperson has confirmed, amid Ankara’s operation against the Kurds in Afrin, Syria. Turkey hit back by saying it expects solidarity from its ally.

Berlin will not be making any decision on “critical arms transfers” to its NATO ally Turkey, including the much-awaited upgrade of German-manufactured Leopard tanks, because of the military operation against the Syrian Kurds, Spiegel magazine earlier reported.

Instead, this matter will be passed on to the next government, which Berlin is currently struggling to form following the September 24 elections.

“The [interim] federal government is very concerned about the armed conflict [going on] in northern Syria,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Spiegel.

“As far as the current discussions on weapons exports are concerned, it is clear to the government that we are not allowed to, and will not deliver [armaments] to crisis regions.”

The report said the Germans had initially agreed to modernize the Turkish Army’s ageing Leopards, an upgrade Ankara had been requesting from Rheinmetall – Germany’s leading heavy weapons manufacturer – since spring 2017.

However, as Turkish troops began their ground offensive against Syrian Kurds as part of ‘Operation Olive Branch’, the German government faced criticism within its own ranks that such a move would send the wrong signal, according to the magazin.

The German Foreign Ministry has also urged NATO to discuss recent developments in northern Syria.

Later in the day, Ankara fired back at the report. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Berlin’s arms supplies freeze has nothing to do with military cooperation between the two countries, according to Reuters.

“While we fight with terrorists, we expect support and solidarity from Germany. We expect them to not support terrorists, but I know they are also under pressure,” Cavusoglu said.

Since the 1980s, the Turkish armed forces have operated around 400 Leopard 1s, some of which have been upgraded by Turkey’s military industry, according to open sources. In the mid-2000s, Turkey took delivery of about 350 Leopard 2M4 tanks, a modernized version featuring a new turret, high-power cannon, and electronic equipment.

Throughout its previous military campaign in Syria, Turkey lost a number of 60-ton Leopard 2 tanks, mostly due to mine explosions. Ankara has recently pressed Berlin and German arms companies to retrofit the hardware to offer better mine protection, but some German politicians have called for an end to arming the Turkish military.

“An immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue,”Agnieszka Brugger, a Green Party MP, told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper. “This intense situation should be a wake-up call for the German government.”

This is not the first time Germany has put arms deliveries to Turkey on hold. In September last year, Foreign Minister Gabriel said Berlin postponed “all big requests [for arms exports] that Turkey has sent to us, and these are really not a few.” Ankara said in response it will make Turkey vulnerable to terrorism, and will weaken counter-terrorism operations.

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