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Canada Resumes Talks with Turkey on Export Controls Following NATO move

Canada Resumes Talks with Turkey on Export Controls Following NATO move

In a surprising turn of events, Canada has resumed discussions with Turkey regarding the removal of export controls on drone parts. This decision comes after Turkey gave its approval for Sweden to join NATO, which marks the end of over a year of opposition to Sweden's membership bid. The move even took Erdogan's domestic allies by surprise, as they had supported his demand for Stockholm to take action against Ankara-designated terrorist groups before endorsing the membership.

President Tayyip Erdogan's decision to greenlight Sweden's NATO membership is considered a significant concession obtained in exchange for Turkey's blessing.

In a significant development, Canada has decided to reopen discussions with Turkey regarding the removal of export controls on drone parts. This decision comes after Turkey granted its approval for Sweden to join NATO, a move that is perceived as a result of various concessions obtained in exchange for Turkey's support.

President Tayyip Erdogan's surprising endorsement of Sweden's membership bid came after more than a year of opposition, even from domestic allies who had supported Erdogan's demand for Sweden to take action against Ankara-designated terrorist groups.

The announcement by Erdogan preceded a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Vilnius, and it was quickly followed by a statement from the United States affirming its intention to proceed with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets in consultation with Congress.

In a potentially significant development for Turkey's defense industry, Canada, a NATO member, has agreed to resume talks on the removal of export controls specifically pertaining to drone parts, including optical equipment. An individual familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization, revealed this information.

The export controls on certain drone technology to Turkey were imposed by Canada in 2020 after an assessment that the equipment had been utilized by Azerbaijani forces during the conflict with Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, the Canadian Prime Minister's office affirmed that these controls, which were implemented for valid reasons, are still in place.

During the Vilnius summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed Sweden's accession to NATO with President Erdogan and reiterated Canada's commitment to unrestricted defense trade and investment among allies.

Prior to the NATO summit, Turkey, already engaged in discussions with the United States concerning the F-16s, requested that Canada's export controls be included in the final negotiations. As part of a potential "package deal," Canada agreed to reopen talks that had been previously frozen since Turkey initially objected to the NATO membership bids of Sweden and Finland last year. In return, Turkey committed to supporting Sweden's bid at the Vilnius summit.

Canada has outlined its position on the rules governing the use of exported technologies to Turkey and is now awaiting a response, indicating that the talks on export controls are no longer at a standstill. This development played a role in securing Erdogan's pledge regarding Sweden, as confirmed by the anonymous source.

A Turkish defense ministry official, when asked about ongoing discussions with Canada to lift export restrictions, stated that it is unacceptable for NATO allies to impose such restrictions on each other. The official also mentioned that progress has been made on this issue at the Vilnius Summit.

In a recent interview, Erdogan expressed his expectation that all NATO allies would lift sanctions and restrictions on Turkey's defense industry. Following his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Erdogan expressed increased optimism about the sale of F-16 fighter jets, a deal worth $20 billion that Turkey had requested in October 2021.

Turkey's objections had posed a significant obstacle to Sweden and Finland's NATO membership aspirations following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Turkey's demands included a stronger stance against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union since its armed insurgency against the Turkish state began in 1984. In March, Turkey's parliament ratified Finland's membership after Erdogan acknowledged Helsinki's concrete steps against designated terrorist groups and efforts to facilitate defense exports.

Erdogan also stated that he would submit Sweden's ratification to parliament when it reconvenes in October. He added that Stockholm would provide a roadmap outlining the necessary steps it intends to take before gaining approval.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on which Erdogan's AK Party relies for its parliamentary majority, commented on Sweden's membership bid, stating that Sweden had failed to distance itself from terrorism. However, he clarified that the final decision on Sweden's bid would be made by Erdogan.

On Thursday, Erdogan held a meeting with MHP leader Devlet Bahceli.

Erdogan also emphasized that Turkey expects certain steps from the European Union, such as updating the customs union and establishing visa-free travel, before Turkey proceeds with implementing its own commitments.

A European diplomat noted that Erdogan may have skillfully leveraged his position to maximize gains in the context of Sweden's membership bid, remarking, "We've seen in the past he likes to use his levers."

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