UK to Halt New Defense Export Licenses to Turkey

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
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UK to Halt New Defense Export Licenses to Turkey

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Britain is to halt new arms export licenses to Turkey as a result of concern over its military operation against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, the foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Tuesday.

“The UK government takes its arm export control responsibilities very seriously and in this case, of course, we will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review,” Raab told parliament.

“No further export licenses to Turkey for items that might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review.”

Meanwhile, Bulgaria called on neighboring Turkey on Tuesday to call off its military offensive in northeast Syria, saying the violence could lead to rising numbers of migrants crossing the border and heighten the risk of a humanitarian crisis.

"We insist that the military actions be stopped. Diplomacy is the only way that can solve this conflict," Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told reporters after a meeting of Bulgaria's consultative Security Council on the situation in Syria.

"We are firm that the military operation should stop, that the risk of a humanitarian crisis is very big. If there is a humanitarian crisis it would mean an increase of migrant inflows," he said.

Bulgaria, an EU member with a land border of more than 300 km (187 miles) with Turkey, was currently experiencing no pressure from migrants seeking entry, Borissov said.

Turkey, which hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, has threatened to "open the gates" to allow those refugees to head for Europe if the EU opposed Turkey's actions in northern Syria.

While US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey, the EU decided on Monday to take a softer stand by allowing member countries to consider their own restrictions on arms sales to Turkey - a measure that is likely to be brushed off as trivial as arms account for just 45 million euros out of more than 150 billion euros in Turkey-EU trade.

The Bulgarian prime minister reiterated his support for the deal that the EU struck with Turkey on refugees in 2016. As a result of that accord, Brussels has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara stemming the influx of migrants into Europe after more than 1 million people entered the bloc.

"I want the deal with Turkey to be respected.. If 50,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 migrants enter Bulgaria, I do not know what will happen with the country... And while Turkey is following the agreement with Bulgaria at 100%, I am obliged to support that position," Borissov said.

German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday criticized Trump for not having coordinated his decision to impose sanctions against Turkey, adding that the European Union is discussing its options and should act together.

"It's crucial that we coordinate our actions internationally, that's the most important thing in this situation. This also applies to the European Union," Scholz told Reuters in an interview.

He said that the military escalation in Syria must be stopped, adding that Germany would not waive any arms exports to Turkey for the time being.



Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
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Stockholm Accuses Iran of Using Criminals in Sweden to Target Israel

A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo
A police vehicle on patrol in Sweden. Reuters file photo

Sweden's domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.
The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency's counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.
In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.
The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.
According to The Associated Press, Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency "can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”
“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden," he said and added that the agency sees "connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”
Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.
“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden," Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”
Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.
By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.