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TURKEY must stop its genocidal war in northern Syria, British Kurds warned today as the government announced it was suspending future arms licences to Ankara.
A small group gathered outside the Turkish embassy to demand that the British government halt arms sales altogether, following the call from European foreign ministers on Monday.
Britain remains one of the largest arms exporters to the Turkish state and has licensed £1.1 billion of weapons since Recep Tayyip Erdogan became President five years ago , but has so far refused to stop its deadly trade.
This includes £206m of licences for aircraft, helicopters and drones, £84m on armoured vehicles and tanks, and £82m on grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures.
The Foreign Office said today it was reviewing the agreement, but did not say when this was likely to conclude.
It is understood that Britain is suspending awards of new licences pending the outcome.
But Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman Andrew Smith told the Star that the action should not be limited to future arms sales, but must also affect the arms previously licensed.
“As long as those licences are still valid then those arms can be used,” he said.
Mr Smith hoped it would prove to be a “turning point” in British foreign policy in Turkey.
“In 2018 Turkish forces bombed Afrin and it made no difference to arms sales or military collaboration. If this move is to be more than symbolic then there can be no return to business-as-usual.
“It’s time that the rights of Kurdish people were finally put ahead of arms company profits.”
On Monday foreign minister Andrew Murrison reportedly argued against condemning Turkey as the EU tried to agree a common policy on arms sales.
Today’s demonstration was organised by the Kurdish People’s Assembly — an organisation representing Kurds in Britain — who have called daily protests since Turkey’s invasion of Syria began last week.
Kurdish People’s Assembly spokeswoman Nejla Ari told the Star: “Erdogan and the Turkish state cannot stand the existence of the Kurdish people and cannot tolerate any form of Kurdish self-governance.”
She accused Ankara of waging “a genocidal attack” on the Kurdish people alongside jihadist groups.
The Kurdish group demanded “an immediate halt to arms sales, sanctions on the Turkish government and a no-fly zone.”
Ms Ari called on trade unions, anti-war groups and the community to join the demonstration at BBC HQ, Portland Place at 1pm on Sunday “to stand shoulder to shoulder against this barbaric and aggressive fascism.”
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