Italy is ready to block arms exports to Turkey because of its Syrian intervention, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Monday.
Italy is the biggest EU exporter of weapons and ammunition to Turkey.
Speaking after an EU foreign ministers meeting, Di Maio said “it was a very important foreign council in which Italy’s request to all European States was to block arms exports to Turkey in future.
The same view was echoed by Spain, Austria, and Belgium. Germany and France had already announced their determination to impose an arms embargo over the weekend. Finland and the Netherlands committed to stopping exports last week.
The EU has condemned the Turkish incursion in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, which started soon after a surprise US announcement to withdraw from the region. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is threatening to retaliate vis-à-vis Europe, by facilitating an exodus of refugees to the EU.
According to Eurostat, the EU exported €45 million worth of arms and ammunition to Turkey last year, with Italy being the main vendor, followed by Spain, Britain and Germany.
Only Hungary appears to oppose sanctions and Budapest moved to opposed a joint EU statement last week, Reuters reports.
Cyprus and Greece are urging further economic sanctions against Turkey, given illegal gas drilling in waters off southern Cyprus. The EU is considering asset freezes and travel bans against the Turkish military and captains of the drilling ships.
Meanwhile, the US appears to disrupt the Turkish incursion.
Trump phone Erdogan on Monday to demand an immediate truce, according to Vice-President Mike Pence. At the same time, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that three senior Turkish government officials of the energy and defence ministries would see their assets in the US freeze. In a statement posted on Twitter, President Trump also said he would raise tariffs on Turkish steel to 50% and “immediately stop” negotiations related to a “$100 billion trade deal” with Turkey.
Strategically, the US and EU reaction may be too late to avert a strategic triumph for the Assad regime. The Syrian army began to move towards the border on Monday, as the Kurdish led Syrian Defense Forces are being incorporated into the national Syrian Army. As a result, Syrian loyalists troops are moving into territory they had left in 2012.