Canada suspends Turkish arms exports amid allegations in Armenia-Azerbaijan fight

OTTAWA — Canada suspended arms exports to Turkey while it investigates claims that drone-sensor technology created by an Ontario company is being improperly used in renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced the new move Monday after ordering an investigation last week.

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Champagne was responding to calls from arms-control watchdogs, Armenian Canadians and New Democrats to suspend the export of a targeting sensor made by a Burlington, Ont. company that is allegedly being used in Turkish attack drones.

Champagne said he was suspending the permits to allow time to assess the situation.

"We will gather further evidence to make sure that all exports comply with the spirit and the letter of the law," he said Monday.

Turkey is a Canadian NATO ally and faces allegations it is involved in the renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a disputed region of the Caucasus.

Canada and Britain have called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to settle their differences in negotiations before the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Canadian disarmament group, Project Ploughshares, has issued a report that alleges Turkey is increasingly using a targeting sensor made by L3Harris WESCAM, a Canadian subsidiary of the American company L3Harris, and that it poses substantial risk of human rights abuses.

Ploughshares said in the report that Turkey has been using the sensors since 2017 while its military has been trying to put down an insurgency in southeast Turkey and while being involved in military operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The Armenian National Committee of Canada has called on the federal government "to condemn this outright aggression" by Azerbaijan, and to immediately halt arms exports to Turkey.

And Jack Harris, the NDP critic for foreign affairs, urged the Liberal government "to look in the mirror" to ensure it is not being complicit in human rights abuses by failing to properly regulate its arms exports to Turkey.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2020.

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