Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada has suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey while it probes allegations the equipment was used by Azeri forces involved in fighting with Armenia, a senior official said on Monday.

Project Ploughshares, a Canadian arms control group, says video of air strikes released by Baku indicates the drones had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

“In line with Canada’s robust export control regime and due to the ongoing hostilities, I have suspended the relevant export permits to Turkey, so as to allow time to further assess the situation,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

The Globe and Mail said L3Harris Wescam had received permission this year to ship seven systems to Turkish drone maker Baykar. Turkey is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces are fighting Armenians over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Separately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he had asked Champagne to travel to Europe “to discuss with our allies the developments in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

He did not give more details and an aide to Champagne said the exact itinerary had not yet been worked out.

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The federal government is suspending the export of sophisticated Canadian drone technology to Turkey while Ottawa investigates claims that it is being used by the Azerbaijani military against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Monday.

Champagne was responding to calls by Canada’s Armenian community and the disarmament group Ploughshares International to stop the export of Canadian drone optics and laser targeting systems to Turkey following reports that Ankara has deployed dozens of unmanned aircraft in combat against Armenian forces in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

Kelsey Gallagher, an expert with Project Ploughshares who has studied exports of Canadian drone technology to Turkey, said these sensors are used by Turkish TB2 Bayraktar combat drones, allowing them to see what’s happening on the ground day and night, in all weather conditions.

Armenia has accused Turkey of using TB2 Bayraktar combat drones left behind in Azerbaijan following recent joint exercises to pummel Armenian forces from the air, collect intelligence and direct artillery and missile fire at both military positions and civilian infrastructure.

“Canada continues to be concerned by the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting in shelling of communities and civilian casualties,” Champagne said.

“We call for measures to be taken immediately to stabilize the situation on the ground and reiterate that there is no alternative to a peaceful, negotiated solution to this conflict.”

Speaking at a press conference this morning in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he is sending Champagne to Europe “to discuss with our allies the developments in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Armenia’s embassy in Ottawa welcomed Champagne’s announcement.

“This acknowledges Turkey’s direct involvement in the aggression against the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) perpetrated by Azerbaijan,” Armenia’s ambassador in Canada, Anahit Harutyunyan, said in a statement, referring to the Armenian name of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Only through joint efforts can the international community stop Turkish-supported Azerbaijani aggression, backed by foreign mercenaries, against the vulnerable Armenian population.”

Armenian-Canadians Want Trudeau to Push for Ceasefire

Canadian-Armenian community organizations that had lobbied hard to stop military exports to Turkey also welcomed the announcement.

Hagop Arslanian, deputy chairman of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in Canada — one of the largest Armenian community organizations — said the group is “satisfied” with Ottawa’s announcement.

“Let it be clear that there is no military resolution to this conflict,” Arslanian said.

The Armenian community also wants Trudeau to take on a more active diplomatic role by calling his counterparts in Turkey and Azerbaijan to demand an immediate ceasefire, he added.

“Equally, we want him to call [Armenian] Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and communicate his support,” Arslanian said.

(Levon Sevunts of Radio Canada International contributed to this report.)



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