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Canada Blocks Arms Exports to Ally Turkey

The export ban affects 29 permits and applies to a wide variety of military goods and technologies.

Canada on Monday blocked military arms exports to NATO ally Turkey after a probe found Canadian drone technology had been misdirected for use in conflicts.

Shipments had been suspended last October pending an investigation into allegations that Canadian imaging and targeting systems on unmanned drones were used by Azerbaijan in clashes with Armenia.

“Following this review, which found credible evidence that Canadian technology exported to Turkey was used in Nagorno Karabakh, today I am announcing the cancellation of permits that were suspended in the fall of 2020,” Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement. “This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey.”

The export ban affects 29 permits, and applies to a wide variety of military goods and technologies including components for the production of aircraft, software and technical data for flight simulators, satellite equipment, and firearm components.

The value of Canadian exports of weaponry to Turkey was last pegged in 2019 at more than 150 million Canadian dollars (US$120 million).

Garneau indicated that he spoke earlier with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, saying future permit “applications related to NATO cooperation programs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

Six weeks of fighting that broke out last September in Nagorno Karabakh claimed the lives of some 6,000 people and ended in November with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia cede to Baku swathes of territory it had controlled since 1990s.

Ankara backed its longtime ally Azerbaijan in the fighting in the ethnic Armenian province that had broken away from Azerbaijan in a bitterly fought war.

During a military parade in Baku last December, Turkey paraded its drones, with Turkish television saying they had “turned the tide” of the Karabakh war.

The Canadian investigation also found that Turkey shared the Canadian drone equipment with Libya’s interim government in violation of a UN arms embargo, for use in airstrikes, as well as by Turkey itself for surveillance and targeting in Syria.

Ottawa ordered a separate freeze in October 2019 on the issuing of new export permits for military shipments to Turkey, after its incursions against Kurds in northern Syria.

The Canadian government at the time feared that these attacks would lead to further destabilization of the region, worsen the humanitarian situation, and roll back progress in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The suspension was lifted in May of that year.

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