Wednesday, January 24, 2018

German government under fire over Leopard tanks in Syria

Germany's government has faced a slew of criticism over German-made tanks that Turkey deployed in its push into Syria. Some politicians have called for an immediate halt to arms exports to Turkey and nixing a key deal.

Türkische Offensive in Nordsyrien Leopard 2A4 Panzer

Opposition politicians in Germany responded with outrage to the photos of German-made Leopard tanks being used by the Turkish army in their Syrian offensive. The intervention, which entered its fourth day on Tuesday, is unpopular with the German public.
"The German government must not look away again and needs to clearly state its position on the Turkish military offensive against Kurds in Syria," said lawmaker and defense expert for Germany's Green party Agnieszka Brugger.
She also slammed Berlin's manner of dealing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the course set by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was a "disastrous failure."
"An immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue," Brugger told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper.
Senior lawmaker Jan Korte from the Left party called on Angela Merkel to provide an official explanation of her government's policy on Turkey. He added that the current caretaker cabinet needed to specify "how they mean to respond in the next weeks and months" to the Syria escalation.
Leopard 2A4 tanks in Turkey
Turkey has bought more than 750 German tanks since the 1980s
Tank upgrades to be canceled?
The criticism comes at an awkward moment for Germany's top officials, as Berlin recently engaged in tentative rapprochement with Ankara after a plunge in bilateral ties. Part of the thaw is the deal pushed by Foreign Minister Gabriel to provide Turkish tanks with better mine-protection gear. Other upgrades were reportedly also in store for hundreds of German-made tanks used by the Turkish army.
Even politicians from Angela Merkel's CDU party called on Gabriel to halt the deal after the publication of photos showing Leopards on the ground in Syria. Norbert Röttgen, who chairs Bundestag's foreign policy committee, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily that the Turkish attack was a violation of international law.
A Leopard 2A4 tank heading toward the Syrian border in Turkey
Röttgen said it was "completely obvious" that Germany could not provide Turkey with tank upgrades at such a time.
Silence in Berlin
Germany has yet to condemn Ankara's offensive, despite Gabriel calling his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday to share his "concern" about escalation and possible humanitarian impact.
German officials have so far refused to provide details on the apparent Leopard deployment. A defense ministry spokesman said that it was not yet clear when the pictures were taken, while foreign ministry officials said the situation remained unclear. A spokesman dealing with weapons exports in the economy ministry was equally tight-lipped.
"Except for the images shown in the media, which you all know about, we do not have any information about the use of Leopard tanks," he said on Monday.

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