Czech Republic suspends weapons exports to Turkey

Turkish army personnel carriers are parked on a road towards the border of Syria in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 14, 2019, photo: ČTK/AP/Emrah Gurel

The Czech Republic has joined other EU member states in halting weapons exports to Turkey over its military offensive in northern Syria. The Czech foreign minister on Monday urged Turkey to halt the offensive and open the door to negotiations aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.

Turkish army personnel carriers are parked on a road towards the border of Syria in Sanliurfa province,  Turkey,  October 14,  2019,  photo: ČTK/AP/Emrah Gurel
Although the EU stopped short of effecting a legally-binding embargo on weapons exports to NATO ally Turkey, a host of EU countries followed up the agreement to “limit arms exports“ by suspending all weapons exports to the country. The Czech Republic is among them. Interior Minister Jan Hamáček:

“All licenses to export weapons and ammunition to Turkey have been suspended and new ones will not be issued until the situation has been cleared up. The Czech Republic is coordinating its steps with its EU partners and is also consulting the matter within the Visegrad Four group of states.”

Czech firms had licences to export arms, ammunition and land vehicles as well as technology for military aircraft to Turkey. Trade and industry Minister Karel Havlíček said the suspension of licences has affected all military exports without exception.

“It is a broad mix of export items and I do not want to specify the firms or weapons concerned. According to our information none of them are being used in the military offensive in Syria, but we have taken the precaution of suspending military exports across the board.”

Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has once again urged Turkey to halt the military offensive in northern Syria and open the door to negotiations. The Czech foreign minister summoned the Turkish ambassador to Prague on Monday to table an official protest against Turkey’s actions, noting that while the Czech Republic respects Turkey’s right to defend its border, it strongly opposes the military offensive deep into Syrian territory.

Tomáš Petříček,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
“Our priority is for Turkey’s concerns to be addressed through diplomatic negotiations. We are ready to hold talks, but the precondition is that a ceasefire be affected in north-eastern Syria and that Ankara halts the unilateral offensive which already has many victims among the civilian population.”

Czech officials have condemned the military offensive across the board, with some politicians speaking of betrayal and violation of international law. Some centre-right opposition MPs are also attaching blame to the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, for having said in early September, that the Visegrad Four states support Ankara’s intention to create a “safe zone for refugees” in northern Syria. Prime Minister Babiš, who made it clear he condemned the military offensive, defended himself with the argument that at the time there had been no talk of an invasion. He expressed regret that the EU had not done more to prevent the military offensive and push for a diplomatic solution.