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Belgian companies circumvent arms embargo to Turkey 

A loophole in export legislation is allowing Flemish companies to export parts for aircraft involved in conflict in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, De Morgen reports. 

In October last year, Turkey took sides in the conflict in Syria, backing Islamist jihad forces against the Kurdish minority. Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon reacted by freezing all Flemish government licences for export of military equipment to Turkey. At the time, that concerned four shipments of dual-use equipment – products which normally have civil applications, but which can be used for military ends.

But Flemish companies continue to deliver parts for the A400M, a military aircraft used by Turkey. The A400M is a project involving six NATO member states, among them Belgium and Turkey, and parts are not covered by Jambon’s embargo.

The trade has been important for Flemish companies, who have exported parts for the project worth €86 million since it began in 2013.

Turkey is not the only country using the aircraft, but it is the most concerning. Ankara has used the aircraft, according to the peace institute Vredesactie, to transfer jihadist rebels from Syria to new battlegrounds, including Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The A400M has also been used to transport arms from Turkey to Libya, in breach of another arms embargo.

In a reply to a parliamentary question from Annick Lambrecht (sp.a), Jambon admitted that exports of parts for the A400M fell outside the scope of his embargo. The parts are not delivered to Turkey but to the manufacturing plant in Spain. And they are not intended for aircraft destined specifically for Turkey.

“I can confirm that there are no exports of A400M-related spare parts to Turkey,” said Jambon, leading Vredesactie to call for a review of Flanders’ policy on arms exports.

“Generic permits are normally only intended for EU member states, but there is an exception for NATO allies, such as Turkey,” Bram Vranken of Vredesactie told De Morgen.

“The Turkish military actions in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh show that this is not a country that can be exported to without any control. It is time to close this loophole in the legislation.”

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By Alan Hope, December 05, 2020, published on The Brussels Times

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