Canada suspends weapons sales to Turkey over Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Escalation of conflict condemned by US, France and Russia in joint statement

Members of Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) display Turkish and Azerbaijan flags on their vehicle before taking a tour in the city in solidarity with Azerbaijan, in Istanbul on October 5, 2020. Turkey on October 4, 2020 condemned what it said were attacks on civilians by Armenian forces on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja in the conflict over disputed breakaway region Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting over Karabakh, which broke out into renewed fighting seven days ago, intensified as Armenian and Azerbaijani forces exchanged rocket fire.  / AFP / Yasin AKGUL

Canada suspended its arms exports to Turkey on Monday over its reported use of Canadian military technology in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The US, France and Russia also denounced the escalating clash in a joint statement.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted:

The suspension covers drone technology after reports that some of the weapons bought were used by Azerbaijani forces fighting ethnic Armenians in the breakaway region.

A Canadian arms control group was the first to report on the equipment. Project Ploughshares tweeted on September 22:

Turkey is supporting Baku in its military confrontation with Yerevan over the Nagorno-Karabakh area.

Armenia has reported that Turkey has provided weapons and Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan, as it did for the Government of National Accord in Libya to the condemnation of much of the international community.

Wescam was given permission to ship seven systems to Turkish drone maker Baykar in 2020, according to the Globe and Mail.

This is not the first time that Canada has suspended weapons sales to Turkey, a fellow Nato member.

Between October 2019 and May 2020, Ottawa froze military export permits to Ankara after its incursion into Kurdish areas in northern Syria.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian province that separated from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Fighting broke out again last month.

On Monday the US, France and Russia condemned the escalation of violence.

Particular censure was reserved for targeting civilians outside the conflict zone, which the three described as "an unacceptable threat to the stability of the region".

Message to a Nato member

Nicholas Heras, director and senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, saw the suspension as a tactic to pressure Turkey to stop fighting, but one that may not necessarily work.

"This move is a shot across the bow directed at Turkey to stop supporting Azerbaijan in a conflict that the majority of the international community is seeking to stop," Mr Heras told The National.

“This move is important because it is a sign that Turkey's allies in Nato are concerned with the proliferation of Ankara’s military drones in regional conflicts.”

But the move may not be disruptive for Turkey’s support to Azeri troops.

“This is a nuisance but not a threat to Turkey's ability to produce or proliferate its war drones,” Mr Heras said.

“Turkey has been there, done that with other Nato members, including the US and France, over its actions in Syria and the Mediterranean.

"There is every chance [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his team simply shrug at this and move on.”

More than 230 people have been killed in the latest clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh.