Berlin angered by Kurd attacks
Germany is facing calls to halt arms exports to Turkey after reports that German Leopard tanks were being used in an offensive against the Kurdish YPG or People’s Protection Units in Syria.
A protester in Bonn said she would take to the streets every day over the issue and would allow her children to join Kurdish insurgents. “I am a mother and I wouldn’t stop my children from going to the mountains,” the protester called “Erin” said, using a euphemism for joining the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought an intermittent insurgency in Turkey for decades and has been banned in Germany since 1993.
German MPs have demanded that any moves to approve a tank upgrade deal be axed.
Turkish forces began an assault in Syria’s northwest on Saturday to stamp out the development of a Kurdish state on its southern border.
Numerous rallies have been held across Germany to protest against the offensive on the YPG, the Syrian-Kurdish group that controls the Afrin region in northwest Syria.
Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported that some Turkish mosques and imams in Germany invoked prayers for the success of the Turkish military against the “terrorists” in Afrin. The prayers were the same as those read at around 90,000 mosques in Turkey.
The “tank” row comes shortly after the two countries’ foreign ministers said they would improve bilateral ties.
Last week Germany was reportedly moving to approve a request from Turkey for German manufacturer Rheinmetall to upgrade its Leopard 2 tanks, to make them less vulnerable to explosives.
Defence analysts have claimed that recent images from Turkey’s unfortunately named “Operation Olive Branch” appear to show the tanks being used against Kurds.
Berlin is under increasing pressure over the tank upgrade deal and facing questions about the Turkish offensive in Afrin.
Norbert Röttgen of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee said it was “completely obvious” that Berlin should not provide the upgrades.
He told the BBC that the intervention by Turkey was “illegal, contrary to international law and counter-productive with regard to fighting Isis”.
He said Turkey was not acting in self defence because “there have not been any attacks on Turkey by Kurdish forces in Syria”.
Röttgen praised Washington for condemning the Turkish offensive.
“The Americans are the only Nato allies who are clear about what is happening. We quite often criticise the Trump administration but at this point they are more clear and more courageous than the others, and we should follow,” he added.
A YPG fighter. Picture credit: Flickr