Finland considers loosening its restrictive policies on arms exports to Turkey, after imposing an informal ban in 2019 over Turkey’s military operations against Syrian Kurds, Yle News reported on Sunday quoting Finnish news agency STT.
Since 2019, Finland has prevented the issue of new permits for arms export to Turkey, as a reaction to Turkey’s aggressive policies against Kurdish groups in northeast Syria.
However, relations between Finland and Turkey took a critical turn this year, after Ankara in mid-May threatened to veto Helsinki and Stockholm’s applications for NATO membership. In return for supporting their accession bids, Turkey made a number of demands including requesting that the two Nordic countries make political extraditions.
Following a trilateral deal reached in June to bypass Turkey’s veto, both Finland and Stockholm have gradually been changing policies to meet Turkey’s demands.
The possibility of relaxing arms exports to Turkey was first expressed by the Finnish defence minister Antti Kaikkkonen earlier this month during an official visit to Ankara.
Before his visit, the Turkish Foreign Minister stated that Ankara expected Helsinki to end its arms embargo. “There has not yet been a statement from Finland that they have lifted the arms embargo against us. We expect such a statement from them,” Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, quoted in Reuters.
After returning to his country, Kaikkkonen said that Finland must think of Turkey as a future ally.
“If the companies submit their final licence applications, they will be processed and the matter will be resolved,” the Finnish minister said on Yale TV1.
This time Riikka Pitkänen, a senior advisor to the Finnish defence ministry, gave a timeframe for possible new arms export licences to Turkey.
“It is possible that the government will deal with these applications before next spring’s elections,” she told STT. “We look at who is ordering the product, what kind of products it is and what it will be used for,” she added, explaining how Helsinki will evaluate the Turkish demands.
Though the current Finnish government’s programme rules out exporting military equipment to countries that have a poor human rights record, the governing coalition has green lighted arms exports to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The Finnish minister’s comments imply that the Turkish government’s well-documented disregard to human rights might also be overlooked in return for NATO membership.
Turkey sees the mainly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed wing as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus a threat to its national security, while the SDF forms the backbone of the US-led international coalition fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.
Ankara launched airstrikes to Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on November 20, claiming that they were involved in a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul earlier last month. Despite repeated denials of the SDF and the objections of Washington and Moscow, the Turkish government plans a new ground invasion into Syria to remove Kurdish armed groups from territories near its border.