Italy backs EU ban on arms sales to Turkey

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday he would press for an EU ban on arms sales to Turkey, as Ankara pressed its attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Conte was speaking ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday of the European Union’s foreign affairs committee on the issue - and a day after both France and Germany joined a list of countries halting arms supplies to Turkey.

A government statement said that Rome had been working since Saturday for a moratorium on arms exports to Turkey “as soon as possible.”

“Italy will promote this initiative in all multilateral forums and will work to combat Turkish military action in the northeast of Syria with every instrument permitted by international law,” said the statement from Conte’s office.

“The Italian government is convinced that we must act with the utmost determination to avoid further suffering of the Syrian people, especially Kurds, and to counteract destabilizing actions in the region,” the statement added.

Italy is one of Turkey’s main arms suppliers.

Several European countries, including Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, have already announced a halt in arms supplies to Turkey.

Earlier on Sunday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that threats of sanctions and arms embargoes by Western powers would not stop the military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria.

The Turkish offensive began on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump ordered American troops to pull back from the border.

Trump has faced a storm of criticism for abandoning a loyal ally in the US-led campaign against the ISIS.

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