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Turkey confirms use of German tanks in Syria

January 29, 2018

The Turkish government has confirmed deploying German Leopard tanks against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. Reports of their use in the offensive on the Kurdish-held Afrin region provoked heated debate in Germany.

Türkische Offensive in Nordsyrien Leopard 2A4 Panzer
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/XinHua

Turkey has given confirmation that its troops have been using Leopard 2 tanks supplied by Germany during their offensive against Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border region of Afrin, according to a report from the German Ministry for Economic Affairs sent to parliamentarians in Berlin.

The confirmation comes amid a heated debate on German arms exports to crisis regions.

Read more: German government under fire over Leopard tanks in Syria

Turkey using German-made tanks in cross-border assault criticized as illegal by German lawmakers

Disputed arms exports

- Pictures of German tanks taking part in the Turkish offensive in Syria began emerging at the start of last week.

- As a result, the German government has put on hold a decision on whether to provide an upgrade to the tanks that has been requested by Turkey.

- Turkey, a NATO partner of Germany, received 354 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany in the 1990s, with the only condition being that it did not sell or give them to any third party.

Read more: German Kurds protest Turkey's Afrin assault in Cologne

High-level confirmation 

Although there was no information on concrete deployments of the tanks, the economic affairs ministry did confirm that "according to the Turkish government, Leopard 2A4 tanks supplied by Germany have been used in the Turkish military operation 'Olive Branch' that began on January 20, 2018."

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry said the Turkish defense minister had "not denied that German tanks could have been deployed in Syria."

Controversial offensive: Turkish armed forces launched their offensive in a bid to clear the Syrian-Turkish border region of Kurdish fighters Ankara sees as "terrorists" allied with Kurdish rebels in Turkey. The offensive has strained ties particularly with the United States, which has been backing the Kurdish YPG fighters in their efforts to combat the extremist group "Islamic State" in Syria.

Read more: Opinion: Turkey attacking the most effective anti-IS force in Syria

How Germany has reacted: Germany has voiced concern about possible escalation and humanitarian consequences, though it has so far stopped short of condemning the Turkish operation. 

tj/rt (dpa, Reuters, AFP)