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Netherlands lifts arms embargo off Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, UAE

July 20, 2023 at 5:21 pm

Dutch parliament [Flickr]

The Netherlands has lifted its arms export restrictions off Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as it seeks to apparently reform the framework for its arms exports restrictions.

Addressing the Dutch Parliament through a letter on Friday last week, the Dutch government announced that it was to abolish its “presumption of denial policy” which restricted arms sales to countries including Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“The presumption of denial policy, which currently applies to Turkiye, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, will expire immediately,” the letter said.

The arms export restrictions were imposed on Ankara in 2019 following its military incursion into north-east Syria in October that year, and were imposed on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi over their involvement in the war in Yemen.

Although the Dutch government partly relieved the restrictions on Turkiye in 2021, it offered to issue arms export licenses to the country only if it could demonstrate that the weapons and materials were not to be used in north-east Syria.

In its letter, the government in Amsterdam warned that, despite the abolition of the national policy, “the Netherlands will continue to closely monitor the importance of Dutch goods not being used in conflicts in Northern Syria or Yemen and will bring this to the attention of the other contracting parties at all levels, including politically”.

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The primary motivation for the removal of the restrictions, the government said, was to begin laying the legal groundwork to make the Netherlands part of the landmark French-German control of defence exports treaty of 2019.

That deal establishes a common framework to confront signatories’ arms exports issued to third countries, allowing certain transfers and shipments to take place which would otherwise be restricted or forbidden.

One such example is France’s export of arms to Saudi Arabia which are jointly produced with Germany, despite Berlin’s imposition of sanctions on arms exports to the Kingdom. German authorities have waived such sanctions under the deal as long as the German contribution remains under 20 per cent.

The letter said that the Dutch government’s new policy would be “similar to the German one. In extreme cases, the Netherlands is prepared to object to undesirable transactions via the ’emergency brake procedure’, which cannot be lifted without consensus.”

According to the London-based news outlet, Middle East Eye, however, anonymous and relevant sources within Turkiye informed it that the Dutch government’s lifting of the export embargo is a direct result of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision this month to no longer prevent Sweden’s entry into the NATO alliance and to, instead, move the bid forward for Parliament’s ratification.

READ: Turkish, Dutch, US defense chiefs hold talks on sidelines of key NATO meeting