Turkey informed the German Federal Government that it has been using German-made Leopard 2 tanks in Operation Olive Branch against the PKK terrorist groups Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), Reuters reported Monday.
A report sent to German lawmakers by the Federal Economy Ministry said: "Leopard 2A4 tanks delivered from Germany will be used as part of the Operation Olive Branch of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK], which began on Jan. 20, 2018," according to German news outlet Der Spiegel, which added the information came after a meeting between German Ambassador in Ankara and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli last week.
The dispute over modernization and the use of German-made tanks emerged after Turkey's operation was launched in January when some German politicians, particularly from the opposition Left Party, argued that the arms sales and modernization of Leopard Tanks in Turkey should be halted.
Amid the growing criticism coming from opposition parties, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government announced last week that it would not decide on major defense projects, including the modernization of Turkey's Leopard tanks, but will leave the decision to the next government.
Merkel's Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has turned down opposition calls to ban arms sales to Turkey over Ankara's military operation in northwestern Syria. Senior CSU politician and Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said Monday that they were closely following the developments and Ankara's moves.
"But basically the following applies: Turkey is a NATO partner. A ban on arms exports to NATO partner Turkey would be absurd," he told the German daily, Passauer Neuer Presse. "That would call into question cooperation within NATO," he said.
The sale of Leopard tanks to Turkey started 35 years ago. According to information gathered from the federal government, between 1982 and 1993, 391 Leopard tanks and one archetype tank were sold to Turkey.
The sale of German tanks to Turkey continued with upgraded models in the following years. Between 2006 and 2011, Berlin sold 354 Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara. In 2005, Germany prohibited Turkey from delivering the tanks to a third country or party without its permission in accordance with the agreement between the two countries. The agreement did not have any other restrictions and removed the restriction that the tanks "can be used only in case of defense," which was valid for the Leopard 1 models for the upgraded versions of the tanks. The tanks were used in Operation Euphrates Shield against Daesh, as well.
Merkel's caretaker government earlier acknowledged that Turkey had "legitimate security interests" along its border with Syria, but also expressed concerns that Ankara's military operation might complicate diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the civil war in Syria.
Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are planning to conclude their coalition negotiations this weekend, more than four months after last September's parliamentary elections.
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