US senator moves to ban Turkish drone exports, Azerbaijan aid
A Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is seen during a rehearsal of a military parade marking Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 20, 2021. (AP Photo)

US senator moves to ban Turkish drone exports, Azerbaijan aid

A senior United States senator, known for his ties to the U.S.’ Greek and Armenian lobbies, has proposed measures that target Turkey’s defense sector exports and aid to Azerbaijan.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Thursday recommended measures to put Turkey’s drone program under harsh scrutiny and deny any further aid to Azerbaijan.

Menendez’ proposed changes to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seek to tighten U.S. government tracking and reporting on Turkey’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) exports for national security reasons and to prevent further allowances to bypass a 1992 law banning U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan.

The senator has claimed that Turkey’s drone sales are “dangerous, destabilizing and a threat to peace and human rights.”

Mentioning how Turkish drones played a critical role in Azerbaijan’s fall 2020 liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh from nearly 30 years of illegal Armenian occupation, Menendez pointed out how Poland, a NATO member, Morocco and Ukraine, both allies of the West, also purchased Turkish drones.

Several other countries have expressed interest in purchasing Turkish drones, he said, including Angola, Niger, Nigeria and Rwanda.

Menendez’s proposed changes would require the U.S. Defense Department and the State Department to investigate whether Turkish drones contain U.S.-made parts or technology. They would also require the State Department to determine whether Turkey’s exports are a violation of the Arms Export Control Act or any other U.S. laws or sanctions.

On Azerbaijan, Menendez is pushing to stop any more exceptions to a 1992 law banning U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. The 1992 law in question bans most assistance to Azerbaijan “until it takes demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Liberation of Karabakh

Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

New clashes erupted on Sept. 27 last year, with the Armenian army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violating several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and some 300 settlements and villages that had been occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

Prior to this, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory was also under illegal occupation.

The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, with the cease-fire seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.

Two months later, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.