EU Lawmakers Urge Action to Stop Turkey’s Involvement in Azerbaijan–Armenia Conflict

EU Lawmakers Urge Action to Stop Turkey’s Involvement in Azerbaijan–Armenia Conflict
A man stands in front of a house damaged by shelling during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the village of Alkhanly in Azerbaijan's Fuzuli district on Oct. 7, 2020. (Tofik Babayev/AFP via Getty Images)

BRUSSELS—European Union lawmakers have called on leaders of the bloc to hit Turkey with sanctions for what they call Ankara’s destabilizing role in the escalating war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Members lined up to condemn Ankara’s actions, calling for the EU to follow Canada’s lead by applying an arms embargo on Turkey, and they said accession talks with the country about joining the bloc should be suspended. Ottawa said this week it’s suspending military export permits to Turkey, while investigating allegations that Canadian technology is used in drones Turkey supplies to Azerbaijan.

European politicians also accused Turkey of “sending fighters” into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and called for an investigation into the flow of militants who are said to be traveling to the region from Syria via Turkey.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, expressed concern that “disinformation” put out by both sides in the war could drag in major players from across the region, sparking wider tensions.

In a joint communique issued last week, the leaders of the 27 EU countries called for an immediate ceasefire and warned against all “external interference” in the conflict.

However, on Oct. 6, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed open support for Azerbaijan as he visited the country’s capital, Baku, for talks with its strongman leader Ilham Aliyev.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs minister, said he was “really concerned” by the development and vowed to continue “putting pressure on Turkey to not continue to intervene.”

“We will keep working, also with Turkey, in order to build a constructive contribution to the conflict settlement and help the efforts to stop the hostilities,” he said.

Borrell ruled out any military action on the part of Europe, saying it is “completely out of the question,” but EU leaders could opt for sanctions when they discuss relations with Ankara at their December summit.

During a heated debate at the EU Parliament in Brussels on Oct. 7, Borrell was questioned by 65 deputies over what further action the bloc can take, with many pressing for harsher measures against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

“It seems that many if not most of our foreign policy challenges at external borders have Turkey as a common denominator and cause,” said Tonino Picula, a Croatian member of the European Parliament who sits on the foreign affairs committee.

“Its latest actions are yet another clear sign of Ankara’s departure from EU values and international law standards.”

Geoffroy Didier, a French delegate, said: “It is unacceptable Europe has not put an end to Turkey’s accession procedure. Europe is not a toy. Our values, our principles, the heart of our civilization is not negotiable.”

Turkey’s role in the war has sparked tensions with fellow NATO members, and comes on top of other disputes with European nations over its actions in Syria, Libya, and Cyprus.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his country’s Parliament on Oct. 7 that Ankara’s approach risks an “internationalization” of the conflict, and he accused Azerbaijan of being the aggressor.

Clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have displaced half of the population of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and left its main city, Stepanakert, a ghost town.

Turkey has sent 1,200 fighters into the area, and at least 64 have died, according to the UK-based nongovernmental organization the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.