As fighting continues between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an Israeli official has stated that the country may halt further weapons sales to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Canada has announced that it is halting sales of drone parts to Turkey while it reviews evidence that the parts are being used by drones deployed by Azerbaijan to attack Armenian positions.
Last week, Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel, Armen Smbatyan, for consultations and to protest the sale of Israeli made weapons, including drones, to Azerbaijan. The drones have been used with devastating effect against Armenian forces.
Following the consultations, the Armenian ambassador stated that Israel may halt commercial weapon sales to Azerbaijan.
“In two or three days, they [Israel] seem to be on the way to stopping the supply of weapons,” Smbatyan told the Armenian news site Factor. He added that he had received a verbal promise that this would occur.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would not comment on the Armenian ambassador’s statements or on Jerusalem’s export policy with regard to military products.
While Israel has strong ties with both counties and has sought to maintain the appearance of neutrality in the conflict, it receives 40% of its oil supplies from Azerbaijan, making its ties with that country particularly important.
Fuad Akhundov, a media spokesman in the administration of the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, told The Jerusalem Post that any reports that sales would be halted were ‘fake news’ and he praised the close relations between his country and Israel.
“Israel is our partner,” as part of that partnership Azerbaijan had contracts with Israel to purchase military hardware, but Akhundov claimed that the contracts only dealt with the sale of military hardware and did not involve other participation in the conflict.
The drone sales have included ThunderB the surveillance drone manufactured by Israel’s BlueBird Aero Systems company and the Hermes 900, produced by another Israeli company, Elbit Systems, used for reconnaissance and communication relay. LINK
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on the ninth day of fighting, which broke out on 27 September.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous area that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but which is inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians.
Fighting intensified over the weekend, and a ceasefire appears unlikely in the immediate future. In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing and retaking areas that they lost to Armenia in the early 1990s.
He demanded that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories, and said Azerbaijan would continue with its military offensive until that happened.
“Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories,” he said. “Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.” LINK
In a related development, Canada announced that it has suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey while it investigates allegations the equipment is being used by Azerbaijan’s military against Armenian forces, a senior official said on Monday.
Project Ploughshares, a Canadian arms control group, says video of air strikes released by Baku indicates the drones were equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, a subsidiary of L3Harris Technologies Inc based in Canada.
“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,” Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced.
The Globe and Mail reported that L3Harris Wescam received permission earlier this year to ship seven of the targeting systems to Turkish drone maker Baykar. Turkey has been a key ally of Azerbaijan in the conflict, and the drones have had an important role in the latter’s offensive military operations.
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”. LINK
While a reduction in the ongoing sales of drones to Azerbaijan would be a welcome development for Armenia, which is heavily outnumbered and outgunned, it will not significantly alter the overall balance of forces in the short term. It also remains to be seen whether Israel is willing to jeopardize its until now excellent relations with Azerbaijan, its major source of oil.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Armenia and Azerbaijan political economic and geopolitical factors in the equation
- Battle between life and death Armenian PM calls on reservists to return back to army