November 14, 2019

Ottawa suspended export permits to Turkey Tuesday morning, in the wake of Turkish military action in Syria.

The permits, which are issued by Global Affairs Canada, are required to export arms, munitions and other military technology out of the country.

Global Affairs Canada has not released a public statement or an updated notice of export controls, but confirmed to a number of news agencies that export permits have been suspended in response to Turkey’s actions in Syria.

Canadian manufacturers sold more than $100 million worth of military goods to Turkey last year, according to a government report on the export of military goods. Excluding the U.S., Turkey is Canada’s third largest market for arms, following Saudi Arabia and Belgium.

Turkish soldiers near the Iran/Turkey border on an operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group Ankara considers a terrorist organization. (Turkish Ministry of Interior)

The suspension of export permits was originally reported by Justin Ling for Postmedia.

Turkey’s incursion into Syria and its attack on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a primarily Kurdish-led military organization operating in northeastern Syria – follows the surprise withdrawal of American troops from Syria last week. The U.S. move was widely criticized by the international community, considering the outsized role the SDF played in the fight against ISIS.

The Turkish government claims the SDF is an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which it considers a terrorist organization.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland condemned the action by Turkey in a tweet last week, writing that the incursion “risks undermining the stability of an already fragile region.” She has not commented on the decision to stop weapon sales.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May endorsed the suspension Tuesday in a tweet and suggested that Canada should put more pressure on Turkey, but no other party leaders have commented.

May also referenced Saudi Arabia, which is currently involved in military action in northwest Yemen. Canadian manufacturers sold more than $100 million worth of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia in August of this year alone, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database.

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