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Majority of Swedish Parties Demand Halt to Arms Sales to Turkey Amid Military Operation in Syria

© AFP 2023 / BULENT KILICA Turkish army tank drives down from a truck as Turkish armed forces approach the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on 8 October 2019
A Turkish army tank drives down from a truck as Turkish armed forces approach the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on 8 October 2019 - Sputnik International
Over the past five years, Sweden's arms exports to Turkey have risen more than ten-fold. ​Sweden has consistently ranked among the world's 30 biggest arms manufacturers.

Following Turkey's military operation in the Kurdish-dominated areas of northern Syria, five of Sweden's eight parliamentary parties demanded that Sweden's exports of military equipment to Turkey be stopped.

“In a Turkey that is not only increasingly authoritarian but has also ramped up its machinery to carry out a large-scale invasion of a neighbouring country, Sweden should not export military equipment there,” Liberals foreign policy spokesman Fredrik Malm told Swedish Radio.

This sentiment was shared by Janine Alm-Ericsson, foreign policy spokeswoman for the Greens, a junior government party.

“If this thing keeps developing the way it unfortunately looks like, then it is not acceptable for us to export something that can be used in a war situation,” Alm Eriksson said.

Even the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party suggested that the military operation was incompatible with new Swedish arms exports to Turkey.

“This is a clear signal that we won't enter any new deals there,” Centre Party foreign policy spokeswoman Kerstin Lundgren argued.

The Liberals and the Left also demand that the government compel its fellow EU member states to pursue a comprehensive arms embargo agaisnt Turkey. Next week, the EU's foreign ministers will gather to discuss Turkey's newest incursion into northern Syria. If Sweden's embargo is not supported, Stockholm should at least pursue an arms embargo of its own, the Liberals' Fredrik Malm suggested.

Meanwhile, Sweden has condemned Turkey's offensive, and Turkish ambassador has been summoned. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called Turkey's actions “irresponsible”, suggesting they constitute a violation of international law.

​By contrast, Turkish Ambassador to Sweden Hakki Emre Yunt told Swedish Radio that its fears are exaggerated, stressing that Turkey had entered Syria to “ensure that the Islamic State [Daesh] and other jihadist groups won't resurge after the US has left the area”.

Sweden's military exports to Turkey have risen sharply in recent years. Last year, exports amounted to around SEK 300 million ($30 million), compared with only SEK 21 million ($2.1 million) five years earlier. According to the new regulations on arms exports, which came into force in April last year, Sweden should refrain from exporting arms to countries deemed “undemocratic” or in a state of war.

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson of the Social Democrat party stressed that no military equipment that may be used for combat was exported to Turkey last year and no such permission has been granted this year.

On 9 October, Turkey launched a military operation in northeastern Syria after US President Donald Trump withdrew support for the Syrian Democratic Forces and related Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the de facto autonomous region known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, often referred to as Rojava by the Kurds.

Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist organisation, related to its own Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). According to Ankara, the offensive is aimed at clearing the border area of "terrorists" and creating a security zone.

* Daesh (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and other countries

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