RPT: REVIEW - EU Lawmakers Say Turkey's Accession, NATO Unity 'Finally Buried' By Syria Offensive

BRUSSELS (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 16th October, 2019) By launching an offensive in Syria against Kurdish militias, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again antagonized his allies, this time on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ankara warned several times that it would cross into north Syria if the United Sates failed to implement their joint agreements on a "safe zone" in the border region. The world, however, still looked caught off guards when the military operation started on October 9.

Having denounced the Turkish move as a "bad idea," the United States has swiftly started limiting its presence in the area to a small special forces group to prevent any incidents between the two NATO militaries. By doing so, the United States has effectively abandoned its Kurdish allies, which have been instrumental in defeating the Islamic State terror group (IS, banned in Russia) in Syria.

On Monday, the US authorized sanctions against senior Turkish officials and entities, including the ministries of energy and defense.

Concerned by the humanitarian implications of the military operation, the European Union demanded that Ankara stop it, with Germany and France going further and halting its arms exports to Turkey.

Berlin and Paris announced their move on the weekend, joining the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and the Czech Republic in this action.

Speaking of this decision with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Berlin had been taking a very restrictive line on arms exports to Turkey since the 2016 failed coup and, particularly, after Ankara's military operation in Syria's Afrin in 2018.

Yet despite these restrictions, last year German arms deliveries to Turkey amounted to 242.8 million Euros ($267 million), which represents almost a third of the country's total exports of weapons.

The Council of the EU agreed on Monday that a special working group would meet later this week to review the member states' stance on arms deliveries to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, said back on Sunday that whatever Europe did, "whether an arms embargo or something else," Ankara would "not relent" in its fight against Kurdish militias, whom it brands as terrorists.

President Erdogan further stoked tensions by warning that he could very well "open doors" for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to cross into Europe if the latter did not show any understanding of Turkey's security concerns on the border with Syria.

Donald Tusk, the outgoing European Council president, responded angrily saying that the bloc would neither be intimidated nor "allow refugees to be weaponized and used to blackmail Europe."

The EU is still clearly wary of an escalation that would destroy the 2016 migration deal, under which Turkey promises to stem the bulk of migrant flows to Europe in exchange for 6 billion euros.

The current standoff, coupled with the Cyprus drilling crisis, however, gives little hope for normalization of dialogue with Turkey.

Petr Bystron, the chairman of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) group in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, believes that the "verbal condemnation" of Turkey is not enough.

Europe, he told Sputnik, should end Turkey's accession process and cut aid to the country that is "moving away from the European community of values."

The EU should also stop any financial transfers under the 2016 deal since Erdogan "continues to send thousands of illegal migrants to the Greek islands," according to the lawmaker.

"These unimaginable sums come for the most part from German taxpayers' money. In return, the Turkish ruler holds the largest army in Europe, raises territorial claims against Greece, Syria and Iraq and now even wages a brutal war of aggression against the Kurdish civilian population in northern Syria," Bystron argued.

Apart from poisoning relations with the EU, the Turkish move has also added to tensions within NATO.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg voiced deep concerns that Ankara and Washington "have not been able to agree this time."

On Friday, US troops even came under Turkish artillery fire in the vicinity of Kobane, an area "known by the Turks to have US forces present," according to the US Defense Department. None were injured, however.

It is, meanwhile, not the first time when Turkey has been seriously at odds with the rest of the bloc.

"The Secretary General of NATO is very embarrassed and tries to hide the widening gap between Turkey and the rest of the Alliance. Not only did Turkey provoke the NATO Allies by acquiring Russia's S-400 long-range air defence missiles, which made the Americans refuse to consider anymore the equipment of Turkey with the latest generation of the American fighter-bombers, the F-35," Brussels-based military expert Pierre Henrot told Sputnik.

According to Henrot, the current row again shows that the "alliance is in disarray, a great advantage for Moscow."

"Following the NATO treaty, all members must come to the help of any of the members when attacked. It is article 5 of the Atlantic charter. Can you imagine if Turkey declared it is attacked by the Kurdish 'terrorists' and asked officially the activation of Article 5? With NATO planes over the Syrian border, where Russian fighters are cruising? The situation would be explosive, to say the least," he opined.

WILL SYRIA FINALLY EMERGE AS WINNER?

Gilles Lebreton, a European Parliament member from France's right-wing National Rally, agrees that NATO "could very well enter its worst crisis in its history" amid the row around the Turkish offensive.

"By abandoning its Kurdish allies, the United States loses its military credibility. This will unfortunately revive the EU's plan to create an integrated European army. I wonder how the EU will do to continue linking its non-existent 'integrated European army' to NATO," Lebreton told Sputnik.

Further dwelling on possible repercussions, Lebreton suggested that Syria and Russia might ultimately win from the current situation, given that Damascus and the Kurds seem to have joined forces to repel the Turkish incursion.

"Russia is the clear winner of the diplomatic repercussions of this 'conflict in a conflict.' I expect that the Russian Federation will favour Syria's defence, its staunch ally in the region to its relations with Turkey, because it is Russia's interest to show its loyalty to its ally, in contrast with the attitude of the United States, and also to prevent the revival of vitality of Daesh [IS]," he opined.

The intervention of the Syrian army next to the Kurdish militias, in turn, may serve as a cold showed for Ankara, according to the lawmaker.

As for Europe, the "only really good news" for it is that the "accession of Turkey to the EU seems permanently buried, finally," Lebreton concluded.