Home News Amid the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Canada chooses neutrality

Amid the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Canada chooses neutrality

by Bogdan Lytvynenko October 13, 2020
Amid the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Canada chooses neutrality

Ottawa suspends all exports of military drone technology to Turkey, as the Azerbaijan-Armenia tensions lead to casualties.

Canada will no longer supply its combat drone technology to Turkey, since it allegedly further escalated the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-proclaimed republic that is home to both Azerbaijani and Armenian ethnic groups.

On Sept. 27, bombardment resumed in the war-torn territory, killing at least 31 civilians and hundreds of service people. These clashes in the Caucasus region continue to this day, with Azerbaijan making advances in seven key villages.

These actions are all part of a decades-long conflict which began in the late 1980s. The war in Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as the Republic of Artsakh in Armenia) erupted as an ethnic Armenian majority attempted to secede from Azerbaijan in the south-west of the country.

Long-lasting mountain warfare forced over 800,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis to flee the region as refugees, as well as 230,000 Armenians. While Azerbaijan tries to regain control of its territory, Armenian forces remain fully committed to protecting their own ethnic group.

To this day, not a single UN member state including Armenia has recognized the republic as a sovereign state, meaning the conflict is taking place solely on Azerbaijani territory.

Last week, Canada’s Armenian diaspora urged the Trudeau government to stop exporting military drone technology to Turkey, which includes drone optics and laser targeting systems. Since Azerbaijan uses Turkish combat drones against Armenian targets in Nagorno-Karabakh, Canada was allegedly supporting the Azeri side indirectly.

In response to such reports, Canada suspended all of its drone technology exports to Turkey on Oct. 6. Moreover, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne directed the officials to investigate the use of Canada’s technology in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Champagne also stated that Canada is deeply concerned with the shelling of civilians, and that “the parties to the conflict must stop the violence and respect the ceasefire agreement.”

According to Sevag Belian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee in Canada, Ottawa’s decision to suspend exports was very much appreciated by the Armenian community. He explained that Armenia is looking for nothing other than a peaceful resolution.

“The dictators of Azerbaijan and Turkey are willing to finish the genocide of their ancestors,” Belian told The Concordian, referring to the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915, which Canada recognizes as a genocide.

“Once those two countries stop their aggression, there will be peace in the region. However, once Armenia and Artsakh stop defending themselves, there will be a second genocide.”

Armenia’s perspective, though, differs significantly from that of Azerbaijan. The Turkic nation also witnessed atrocities committed by their Armenian neighbour in February 1992, known as the Khojaly massacre.

The Armenian armed forces committed a mass murder of 613 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians in the town of Khojaly, which is also located in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Human Rights Watch organization described this event as “the largest massacre to date in the conflict.”

Executive Director of the Network of Azerbaijani Canadians, Ismayil Alakbarov, told The Concordian that Azerbaijan is a peaceful nation that has absolutely no interest in war.

If Azerbaijan wanted to liberate its territories with the use of force, we could have done it 30 years ago,” he said.

In this situation, the numbers are indeed favouring Azerbaijan. Its military budget is five times larger than that of Armenia, while its population of 10 million compares to just three million in Armenia.

Despite Armenia’s small population, however, its diaspora in Canada is actively engaging with the Canadian government. On Oct. 4, more than 1,000 Armenian protesters in Montreal called for peace from the Azerbaijani side. The community’s demands have been successful so far, as it already convinced Ottawa to suspend the exports of its drone technology.

Alakbarov, on the other hand, claimed that “We are seeing big propaganda by the Armenian diaspora here in Canada, who is influencing our members of Parliament.” He also urged his community not to follow Armenia’s example and to refrain from mass protests due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.

In the end, Canada continues to play the role of a peacemaker and condemns violence in Nagorno-Karabakh from both parties. On Oct. 6, Champagne made it clear that war is not the answer to the conflict.

[Its resolution] can only be delivered through a negotiated settlement and not through military action.”

Both Belian and Alakbarov agreed with the Foreign Affairs Minister’s statement, confirming that diplomacy is the only way forward.

However, as military engagements between Armenia and Azerbaijan are far from over, both parties continue to deal not only with bombardment in Nagorno-Karabakh, but also worldwide misinformation regarding the truth behind this brutal and controversial conflict.

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