UK continues selling arms to Turkey amid attacks on Kurds but halts new licences

The UK will continue selling arms to Turkey but will not grant new export licences for weapons that may be used in military operations against Kurds in Syria, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Ankara was coming under increasing condemnation for attacks on Kurdish fighters and civilians as the conflict entered its seventh day following Donald Trump’s sudden withdrawal of US troops.

Italy, France and Germany are among EU nations to have suspended weapons and ammunition sales to Turkey, but the UK has stopped short of this.

Mr Raab said on Tuesday that defence exports to Turkey would continue to be reviewed and that no new licences for weapons that may be used in the conflict would be granted.

But arms manufacturers will still be able to sell to the nation under existing licences, and the UK may still grant new licences to exports that it deems will not be used in the northern Syrian strikes.

Mr Raab told the House of Commons that “of course we will keep our defence exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review”.

“I can tell the House that no further export licences to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review,” he added.

Mr Raab rebuked Turkey for its “reckless” and “counter-productive” action which he said risks playing into the hands of Russia and the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began Turkey’s offensive on the Kurds after Mr Trump announced the withdrawal from the Middle Eastern nation that has endured eight years of conflict.

The US president has been accused of betraying the Kurds, who form part of the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, and warned his move could lead to the resurgence of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group.

Mr Erdogan regards the biggest militia in the alliance as a terror organisation and believes it to be an extension of a rebel group fighting in Turkey.

Mr Trump did, however, announce sanctions aimed at restraining Turkey’s assault, as the US called for a cease-fire.

The conflict was also raised in a phone call between Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday morning.

They both expressed their “deep concerns at the Turkish incursion”, according to Downing Street.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg echoed the “deep concern” after meeting with the Prime Minister in Number 10.

Outside in Downing Street, Mr Stoltenberg said: “I am deeply concerned about the consequences.

“Both when it comes to the fight against Daesh (IS), human suffering, and stability in the wider region.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss made it clear the export licence review had already been under way.

“The UK has, for some time, been carefully considering export licence applications for Turkey in light of Turkish activities in Syria,” she said.

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