Congressmen urge U.S. to suspend drone technology exports to Turkey

U.S. congressmen are leading a bi-partisan call on the State Department to suspend drone technology exports to NATO ally Turkey.

Democrat congressman David Cicilline and Republican congressman Gus Bilirakis urged the Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter, for an “immediate suspension of any export permits for U.S. drone technology to Turkey, pending a State Department review,” the Armenian Weekly reported on Sunday. 

Turkey’s armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme is destabilising multiple regions of the globe and threatening the U.S. interests, allies, and partners, the two congressmen said.

Turkey has developed its indigenous drones and used them in recent military combats such as in Libya, Syria, as well as in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside its own borders.

Turkey’s drones were also an instrumental part of its interventions in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh where they were widely filmed defeating Russian-made air defence systems. 

After Turkey supported Azerbaijan against Armenia in last year’s war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian diplomats and activists pushed Western firms to end their relationship with Turkish defence companies. 

Andair, a British company that supplies parts to Turkish drone company Baykar Makina has halted exports to Turkey in January after their components were found to have been used in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Last October, Canadian company Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) announced that it would stop selling engines for Turkey’s drones. This followed the Canadian government’s decision to suspend arms exports to Turkey over the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Over the last year, Turkish drones have been deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians in Artsakh, against Kurdish forces that have partnered with the U.S. in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and in Libya’s civil war, the two congressmen said in the letter.

Cicilline and Bilirakis also called on the U.S. House members to join them in co-signing the letter, the Armenian Weekly said.

The United States has excluded Turkey from a programme to buy the F-35 stealth fighter jet and imposed sanctions on its defence procurement agency in response to its $2.5 billion acquisition of the Russian missiles in 2019, which it maintains that it poses a security threat to U.S. and NATO systems.

Washington has also threatened further measures should the system be activated, calling on Turkey to hand it back to Russia.

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