German MPs demand halt on Turkish tank deal

Norbert Röttgen © Trevor Good/Stiftung Mercator
Norbert Röttgen © Trevor Good/Stiftung Mercator

German MPs have called for a halt on a tank deal after it was revealed that Turkey is using its German-made tanks in an assault on Kurdish forces in Syria.

Germany sold Turkey a number of Leopard 2 tanks for its battle against the so-called Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria. However, recent photographs of Turkey’s military strike against Kurdish forces in Syria appear to show the tanks in use.

Turkey had requested upgrades to the tanks from German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall. These upgrades would have made the tanks less vulnerable to explosives and looked set to be approved by Germany. However, politicians from across German politics have warned against the deal and requested clarification on the government’s position on Turkey’s ongoing assault in northern Syria.

Why has the deal been controversial?

Norbert Röttgen of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party spoke against the proposal to BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight programme. In his capacity as chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, he called Turkey’s assault against Kurdish forces “illegal, contrary to international law and country-productive with regard to fighting IS”.

He said that because Kurdish forces in Syria have made no attacks against Turkey, it was “completely obvious” that Germany should not upgrade Turkey’s tanks. He added that, while he was critical of US President Donald Trump, he welcomed their decisive stand against Turkey’s actions against Kurdish forces in Syria.

Where do Turkish-German relations stand now?

While the two countries are NATO allies, the relationship between Germany and Turkey has soured in recent years. Things worsened after a 2016 coup attempt saw Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismiss more than 120,000 civil servants, military figures and university lecturers, with more than 40,000 people being formally arrested.

Both Turkish and German officials have called for friendlier relations between the two countries. On 1 January, Deutsche Welle reported that Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was optimistic that relations would improve in 2018.


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