Sweden favors arms embargo on Turkey

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Friday she would seek parliamentary support to request a European arms embargo on Turkey due to its invasion of northern Syria, in advance of the EU’s foreign ministers meeting on October 14.

Linde, who appeared on the state-run SVT program “Aktuellt,” declared Sweden’s intention to side with the EU, adding that Sweden, like Germany and France, believes that Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria is a violation of international law.

Referring to the UN’s urgent Security Council meeting on Turkey and the EU’s sharp statement against the Turkish military offensive, the Swedish foreign minister expressed optimism that strong international pressure on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would  produce results.

Linde also mentioned the international fear that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would take advantage of the security vacuum caused by Turkey’s attack and accomplish a possible mass prison break.

“There is the risk that ISIS people will leave the camps and will be free. They can then take up the fight again and carry out terrorist acts,” she said.

In response to President Erdoğan, who said Ankara would send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey to Europe if European countries label the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation, the Swedish minister said Erdoğan had previously made similar empty threats.

“In fact, both the EU and Turkey have seen that it is the best way to deal with refugees. There have been empty threats in the past, but I think Erdoğan wants to stick to the agreement with the EU because it has been proven to work.”

Meanwhile, five major parties in the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) demanded that the government stop the export of military equipment to Turkey. The Christian Democrats (KD), Liberals (L), Greens (G), Center Party (C) and Leftists (V) apparently arrived at a consensus to put pressure on the government even if the EU fails to impose an arms embargo.

Sweden’s military exports to Turkey have risen sharply in recent years. In 2018, exports amounted to approximately SEK 299 million (around $30 million), compared to only SEK 21 million ($2.1 million) five years earlier, according to Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet daily.

Sweden’s new regulation on arms exports that became effective in April 2018 suggests that extensive human rights violations and a state of war constitute obstacles to exporting arms to the buyer country.

Swedish neighbors Finland and Norway announced the suspension of all new military hardware to Turkey following Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

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