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  Because of Turkish Syria offensive: Federal government puts retrofitting of "Leopard 2" battle tanks on ice – Politics | Bit Updates
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Because of Turkish Syria offensive: Federal government puts retrofitting of "Leopard 2" battle tanks on ice – Politics

Thursday, January 25th, 2018 | bitcoin updates

For the time being, the Federal Government will not approve the retrofitting of their "Leopard 2" battle tanks, which Turkey wants. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) said on Thursday the "mirror" that the executive government will "not anticipate the outcome of the ongoing coalition negotiations and wait with the advice of critical projects to the formation of a new government." The federal government was very concerned about the military conflict in the north of Syria. "As far as the current discussions about armaments exports, it is clear to the Federal Government that we are not allowed to deliver into tense areas and will not do so," said Gabriel. Turkey has more than 300 "Leopard 2" tanks in the 90s received from the Bundeswehr. A few days ago pictures had appeared showing the use of such tanks in the Syrian offensive of the Turkish army against the Kurdish militia YPG. Gabriel had promised his Turkish colleagues in early January, to check the retrofitting of the tanks with mine protection. But that was before the Turkish offensive. The test is now once put on hold. However, the federal government is in a dilemma. Never before has a federal government approved as many arms deals as the grand coalition over the past four years. The former Federal Minister of Economics Gabriel had come up with the promise to limit arms exports. This raises questions. What has been known about German arms exports in the past year? The Federal Government's arms export report for 2017 is not yet available, but in a response to a question by the Bundestag deputy Stefan Liebich (Left), the Ministry of Economic Affairs has reported some preliminary figures. Accordingly, the grand coalition last year approved arms exports worth a total of 6.2 billion euros. Most of them did not go to states belonging to the EU or NATO and therefore (with the exception of Turkey) as unproblematic recipients, but to so-called third countries: Into these states were allowed to export armaments worth 3.8 billion euros will increase by around EUR 120 million compared to the previous year. Between 2014 and 2017, the Federal Government approved arms exports worth a total of 24.9 billion euros – significantly more than the black-and-yellow coalition, which achieved a total volume of 20.7 billion euros. The increase is particularly clear when it comes to exporting to third countries: While weapons and other defense equipment worth 9.9 billion euros were approved in third countries between 2010 and 2013, the volume increased by about 46 percent in the following four years: the coalition Union and SPD waved exports to third countries amounting to 14.5 billion euros.

 Which countries were the most important recipients of German weapons and other armaments? Last year, Algeria was led by beneficiaries with approvals of almost € 1.4 billion, followed by Egypt with planned exports of € 708 million. As was the case for years, Saudi Arabia was one of the top ten beneficiary countries, even though the country is at war in neighboring Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. South Korea is also high on the list of key customers of the German defense industry. How are the figures rated by the executive federal government and the opposition? "The Federal Government pursues a restrictive and responsible arms export policy" – this sentence is repeated almost prayerfully in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. On Wednesday, a spokeswoman said that the total value of authorized exports had declined year-on-year (from € 6.8 billion to € 6.2 billion). The arms numbers fluctuated, but were declining in trend. A look at the armaments export reports of recent years shows that the numbers have been falling since 2015 – but only because the year was an absolute record year. Compared with previous years, the third highest value was reached in 2017, and even the second highest for individual licenses for third countries. At the same time, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs pointed out that individual large orders were driving up the numbers, in 2017, for example, with the delivery of a frigate to Algeria. From the opposition came massive criticism of the armaments export policy of the grand coalition: Left-parliamentary leader Dietmar Bartsch accused the Union and SPD of having "totally failed" and spoke of "moral depravity". The Green Party leader Anton Hofreiter said that the Federal Government had broken its promise to reduce the number of arms exports. At least in one point, the Union and the SPD want to change their previous arms export policy: no arms should be delivered to states that are at war in Yemen. This ban would affect three countries, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which in 2017 ranked among the top ten customers of the German defense industry. The export stop should not apply until the new government takes over, but from now on.

 Ankara apparently uses tanks from Germany for the offensive against the Kurds. What is known about it? Despite international concerns, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to continue the military offensive against the Kurdish militia YPG in northern Syria. "First we will exterminate the terrorists, then we will make it worth living there," said Erdogan on Wednesday. The federal government considers the military intervention "with great concern," said a spokeswoman. All parties should stop the fighting and provide access to humanitarian aid. For the ground offensive, the Turkish army uses Leopard 2 A4 tanks. Germany delivered between 2006 and 2011 about 350 Leopard 2 tanks to Turkey. The Federal Government prohibited only the transfer of the tanks to third parties, other conditions they did not provide to the NATO partner, although that had been quite common in the past: Prior to the delivery of the predecessor model Leopard 1 in the 80s and 90s, Germany was from Turkey contractually assure that the tanks are used only in connection with Article 5 of the NATO Treaty – so only in the case of defense or alliance. On Wednesday, the German ambassador to Turkey, Martin Erdmann, spoke with the defense minister in Ankara about the Turkish offensive. Although Turkey is a member of NATO, the federal government refused several permits to export arms during the past year. The total value of licenses granted decreased from € 83.9 million in 2016 to € 34.2 million. Not only Left and Greens call for a halt to all arms exports to Turkey. CDU Bundestag member Norbert Röttgen called it "completely out of the question" to approve the Turkish modernization of Turkish tanks. Also the SPD foreign expert Rolf Mützenich spoke against the project. (with dpa)


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