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.
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.
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.
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)