…As Thousands protest in Germany over Turkish offensive in Syria***
European Union (EU) foreign ministers are expected on Monday to discuss the bloc’s response to Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria, with the possibility of sanctions and an EU-wide arms embargo on the table.
Last week, Turkey launched an operation in north-eastern Syria targeting Kurdish militias.
Ankara considers them to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is waging an insurgency within the country.
The incursion has drawn condemnation from Turkey’s Western allies amid fears of a severe humanitarian crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded its “immediate termination,” in a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday.
Berlin has also halted the export of arms to Turkey that could be used in Syria, in line with decisions taken by France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, and Norway.
Sweden has called for an EU-wide arms embargo, as well as floating the possibility of imposing restrictive measures on individuals.
No sanctions decisions are expected at Monday’s talks in Luxembourg, according to EU diplomats.
However, the issue is also likely to be discussed at a summit of EU leaders later in the week.
The EU has warned that Turkey’s operation threatens to destabilise the region, exacerbate civilian suffering, trigger large population displacements and threaten progress achieved against the Islamic State extremist organisation.
Monday’s talks, attended by UN Syria envoy Geir Pedersen, cover a range of other issues, including Turkish offshore drilling activities near Cyprus.
Developments in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan are also on the agenda, while the ministers will meet their Ukrainian counterpart Vadym Prystaiko over lunch.
Meanwhile, thousands of people on Saturday took to the streets across Germany to protest against Turkey’s military offensive in Northern Syria.
In Cologne, more than 10,000 people, mostly Kurdish, were estimated to have joined a protest march calling for an end to the offensive and condemning Turkish President, Recep Erdogan.
Large parts of Northern Syria are dominated by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S. partner in the fight against Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the U.S. had in recent time withdrawn its troops from Syria, paving the way for the Turkish offensive.
Turkey said they were targeting Islamic State extremists and Kurdish militias in the region.
However, Ankara considered the SDF and allied militias to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) waging an insurgency within the country.
In Cologne, the demonstrators held flags in the Kurdish colours and chanted that Erdogan was a terrorist.
A police spokesman in Cologne said that the demonstrations had so far been largely peaceful.
“They also held banners with slogans such as “No German weapons for Erdogan’s machinations,” he said.
The presence of the police officers was largely to prevent possible conflicts with Erdogan supporters.
The police officers said that there were also protests in other cities, such as Frankfurt, where about 4,000 people took part.
Germany is home to the largest population of Turkish migrants in Europe.