New Delhi, Oct 5 : Is Azerbaijan using the state-of-the-art Canadian drone technology, originally sold to Turkey, in its ongoing war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh? Disarmament groups and the Armenian community in Canada certainly believe so after reports have emerged of Azerbaijani forces using Turkish attack drones equipped with ‘made in Canada’ targeting sensors.
Turkey is siding with ‘brotherly Turkic nation’ Azerbaijan in this Caucasian conflict with its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly condemning Armenia and declaring that supporters of the “rogue state” would be “held accountable”.
The heat generated from the combat has also reached cool Canada, thousands of miles away.
Last month, Project Ploughshares, an Ontario-based peace research institute with a focus on disarmament efforts and international security, published a detailed report ‘Killer Optics: Exports of WESCAM sensors to Turkey — a litmus test of Canada’s compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty’ in which author Kelsey Gallagher gave a solid evidence of Turkey exporting UAVs equipped with WESCAM sensors to armed groups in conflict zones, a blatant breach of the nearly decade-old United Nations arms embargo.
L3Harris WESCAM, the Canadian subsidiary of US defence giant L3Harris, is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) imaging and targeting sensor systems. Turkey, involved in armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and now allegedly in Armenia besides an escalating row with Greece over energy claims in the Eastern Mediterranean, has been a major customer for WESCAM products, second only to the United States, since 2017.
“Project Ploughshares has collected evidence in government and public records, media reports, academic sources, accounts from credible human-rights monitors, and open-source data that strongly indicates that WESCAM EO/IR sensors, mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have been used extensively by Turkey in its recent military activities. Such use raises serious red flags, as it has been alleged that Turkey’s military has committed serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and other violations, particularly when conducting airstrikes,” said the report.
Following Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, Canada had joined Britain, France and Germany to suspend new arms export to Ankara last October. The ‘temporary’ freeze was indefinitely extended this April. However, after Erdogan personally called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his NATO ally, Canada decided to sell military drone equipment to Turkey despite the arms embargo.
The decision has now come back to haunt Trudeau after reports of Turkish unmanned aircraft being deployed in combat against the Armenian forces. While Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has ordered an investigation to find out if Canadian exports are being used in Nagorno-Karabakh, Trudeau said he’s “extremely concerned” about the conflict situation.
It is extremely important that the terms of Canada’s expectations of non-violation of human rights are always respected, said Trudeau.
The Canadian-Armenian community is also gradually building pressure on the government to ban export of Canadian military technology by organizing several protest rallies against the Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression.
“During a global pandemic, Azerbaijan with the assistance of Turkey, launched an unprovoked full-scale offensive against civilian and military targets in Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Canada is effectively becoming complicit in the crimes committed by Azerbaijan and Turkey. This is abhorrent and simply unacceptable, and the Armenian-Canadian community demands explicit explanations. Please join tens of thousands of outraged Canadians in calling for Canada to immediately cancel and prohibit current and future export permits for arms to Turkey being used to kill innocent civilians by this authoritarian regime,” the Canadian arm of Armenian National Committee urged in a letter to Champagne.
“Turkish dictator Recep Erdogan and his allies in Azerbaijan are attacking Christian Armenia, a landlocked and blocked genocide-survivor state. Artillery, rocket, drone, and ground attacks have killed over a hundred Armenian soldiers and civilians – endangering the existence of the world’s first Christian nation. Call on Congress and the Presidential candidates to sanction Turkey and cut off all US military aid to oil-rich Azerbaijan,” says the Armenian National Committee of America.
While there is still no end in sight to Erdogan’s Ottoman aspirations, the utter dislike for his abominable actions has certainly crossed continents.