Germany Mulls Tanks Sale to Turkey | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.10.2004
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Germany Mulls Tanks Sale to Turkey

Barely a week after the European Commission recommended initiating membership talks with Turkey, the German government is reportedly considering to deliver tanks to that country.


The German military no longer needs the tanks

Government officials are mulling the shipment of several hundred Leopard 2 tanks to Turkey, according to the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper.

The German defense ministry has denied any such plans, adding that Turkish officials haven't made an official request so far.

But German Defence Minister Peter Struck said last week that the progress Turkey has made on opening negotiations to join the European Union mean arms sales should no longer be a taboo subject.

The Bundeswehr, the German military, no longer needs the tanks, which were built for combat in central Europe's open and flat regions. The vehicles no longer suit the military's new concept of being able to quickly respond to crisis situations abroad.

Five years ago, the proposal to sell the tanks to Turkey already provoked one of the worst conflicts within Germany's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.

At the time, the then parliamentary leader of the Greens, Kerstin Müller, voiced her party's concerns.

"We think this is the wrong decision," she said. The Greens' resistance eventually blocked the sale of 1,000 Leopard 2 tanks for about €7 billion ($8.6 billion).

Now, the junior coalition partner is once again raising questions about a possible deal with Turkey.

"The European Commission recommends negotiations (with Turkey) and Germany starts talking about tanks," said Claudia Roth, the party's new co-chair, adding that the discussion left a bad taste in her mouth.

No automatic approval

Roth added that she wasn't necessarily opposed to a sale.

But "there's no blank check for a single country in the world -- no EU country, no NATO country," she said, adding that the Commission's recommendation on Turkey did not automatically justify an arms sale.

Claudia Roth

Claudia Roth

"Every single application has to be examined and then people will have to make a decision," Roth (photo) said. Germany had previously rejected arms sales to Turkey because of concerns about the oppression of the country's Kurdish minority. German arms export laws prevent sales to countries in which the arms could increase tensions or conflicts.

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