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Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, has expressed his satisfaction with the conclusion reached by European foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, 14 October 2019. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE FOREIGN MINISTERS of EU member states have committed unanimously to halting the licensing of arms exports to Turkey.

The Council of the EU on Monday issued a declaration condemning the offensive launched in by Turkey on Wednesday, 9 October, urging the country to cease its unilateral military action and withdraw its forces from north-east Syria.

“The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and security of the whole region, resulting in more civilians suffering and further displacement and severely hindering access to humanitarian assistance,” the declaration reads.

The foreign ministers, however, were unable to reach an official decision on halting arms exports to the country. Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reported that a union-wide decision proved impossible due to the judicial difficult of halting arms exports to Turkey, which – similarly to many member states – is a member of Nato.

EU member states will consequently utilise their respective national legislations to implement the export ban.

Pekka Haavisto (Greens), the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out that the approach also guarantees that the bans can be implemented quicker. “The arms export ban applies to the whole EU. We reached a great conclusion after long discussions,” he was quoted as saying by Helsingin Sanomat.

Haavisto estimated already ahead of the meeting that adopting a common position on the export ban would be one of the main objectives of the discussions in Luxembourg on Monday.

Finland has not only firmly condemned and called for the cessation of the offensive, but also announced its support for banning arms exports of Turkey. Haavisto added that although the ban would be the most acute item on the agenda, it will also be crucial to maintain dialogue with Turkey.

He pointed out that the military attack has led to a humanitarian crisis that is only set to exacerbate in light of reports that the Kurdish-led administration in north-east Syria has issued a general mobilisation call along the border with Turkey.

“[This] bodes for an even worse situation for civilians,” he said.

Haavisto also reminded that international organisations were initially expecting the offensive to prompt roughly 100,000 people to flee their homes but have since raised their estimate to 400,000.

“We’re now talking about a number as high as 400,000. It’ll require an enormous endeavour from the organisations.”

There are already localities in the conflict region where water and electricity distribution has been disrupted, according to Haavisto. “We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”

Finland and the EU, he added, will prepare for the displacements primarily by securing the operating environment for humanitarian organisations in Syria. In other respects, the contingency plan is similar to what it has been since 2015.

“Wars always cause displacement, but now people are having to re-locate from one place to another primarily inside Syria. We’re dealing with internal refugees,” he reminded.

Haavisto on Friday reiterated to Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Finland condemns the offensive in north-east Syria.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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