EU sanctions against Turkey ‘on the table’: France

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Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters gather near the Turkish village of Akinci along the border with Syria | Bakr Alkasem/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden hopes to push for an EU weapons embargo in response to Ankara’s Syria incursion.

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EU sanctions against Turkey over its incursion into northern Syria are “on the table,” France said on Friday, while Sweden plans to push for a European arms embargo on Ankara.

European countries and the Commission have condemned Turkey’s military offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces since it began on Wednesday.

Amélie de Montchalin, the French minister for European affairs, told France Inter on Friday morning that a potential response to Turkey’s actions would be debated “at the European Council next week.” Asked if sanctions against Ankara would be under consideration, she said: “Obviously that’s on the table.”

European leaders will meet for a summit on October 17-18. EU foreign ministers are also set to discuss Turkey and Syria at a meeting on Monday.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, meanwhile, announced she would propose implementing a European arms embargo against Turkey at Monday’s foreign ministers’ meeting, a move backed by the Swedish parliament on Friday. The incursion “violates international law,” she said.

On Thursday, Norway and Finland suspended weapons exports to Ankara. (Norway, like Turkey, is a member of NATO.)

Turkey hopes to push Syrian Kurdish forces away from the Turkish-Syrian border. It considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — a Syrian Kurdish militia that played a key role in the defeat of the Islamic State and which controls large swaths of northeastern Syria — a terrorist group.

Ankara also plans to establish a so-called “safe zone” in the areas it takes from the YPG to resettle refugees in Syria. Turkey hosts approximately 3.5 million Syrians, according to official figures.

Following fierce criticism of the incursion from EU countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday warned he would “open the gates” and send millions of refugees “your way” if European leaders labeled the offensive an “occupation.” (Erdoğan has issued this threat numerous times since the EU signed a migration agreement with Turkey in 2016.)

Turkey said on Friday morning that its operation has so far killed 277 militants. One Turkish soldier also died. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed militia alliance dominated by the YPG, said several civilians had been killed.

The International Rescue Committee warned this week that Ankara’s offensive could displace as many as 300,000 people and disrupt humanitarian relief efforts in Syria.

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