Congressmen call to block transfer of U.S. drone technology to Turkey

Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) are leading a bi-partisan call on the State Department to suspend export licenses for U.S. drone technology to Turkey, pending an official investigation into the destabilizing role of Turkey’s drone programs in the Caucasus, South Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and around the globe.

On Friday, Representatives Cicilline and Bilirakis urged U.S. House members to join them in cosigning a letter calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to issue a report on the broader ramifications of Turkey’s drone industry; whether they include U.S. technologies that violate currently imposed sanctions; and whether Turkey’s actions constitute yet another violation of NATO rules and bylaws.  

“Over the last year, Turkish drones have been deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians in Artsakh, Syria; against Kurdish forces that have partnered with the U.S. in the war against ISIS; and in Libya’s civil war,” states the letter which cites battlefield evidence from Artsakh confirming the use of U.S. technology in Turkey’s Bayrakdar drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Armenians.

The full text of the Congressional Letter is provided below:

The Hellenic American Leadership Association (HALC), American Friends of Kurdistan, Hindu American Foundation, In Defense of Christians, Middle East Forum, and Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) are leading a growing coalition of U.S. groups supporting the effort.

Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides noted, “Turkey drone program has undermined America’s interests, values and strategic partners. Now we have indications that it also violates American law. We join Representatives Cicilline and Bilirakis in asking Secretary Blinken to investigate this matter.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian noted, “U.S.-sourced drone parts – like those discovered in Turkish UAVs deployed by Azerbaijan last year to kill Armenians in Artsakh – must never be turned against America’s allies or innocent civilians. We join with Reps. Cicilline and Bilirakis in urgently demanding a comprehensive State Department investigation into whether the transfer of these American components represents violations of U.S. laws or sanctions.”

American Friends of Kurdistan’s Co-Founder Diliman Abdulkader explained, “American Friends of Kurdistan calls on the Biden administration to hold Turkey accountable for its usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The Turkish government under the Erdogan regime has indiscriminately used drones beyond its sovereign territory, threatening our most important allies and partners in the region.  Just last month, Turkey killed three Kurdish civilians in Makhmur refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region. The Turkish regime has yet to be held accountable. Turkey can no longer get away with human rights violations simply because it is a NATO ally.  American Friends of Kurdistan applauds the members of Congress who are not only paying close attention to this critical matter but calling for action.”

American Hindu Foundation Director of Public Policy Taniel Koushakjian noted, “Turkey’s increasingly destabilizing role, from North Africa, to the Middle East, to the South Caucasus, and to South Asia, poses a clear and direct threat to the U.S., our interests, and to our allies and strategic partners like India, the largest democracy in the world. Turkish-Pakistani-Russian joint production of combat UAVs should alarm democracies around the world, and with the recent drone strikes in Kashmir the last two weeks, the addition of Turkish combat UAVs combined with Pakistan’s existing jihadi ground forces poses a real threat and would be a toxic mix for America’s ally India.”

In Defense of Christians (IDC) Executive Director, Richard Ghazal commented, “Ankara continues to abuse its status as a NATO ally, causing global destabilization, through its undeterred procurement of the Russian S-400 weapon system, and its development, deployment, and proliferation of offensive drone systems—all in the face of US-imposed CAATSA sanctions. We join Representatives Cicilline and Bilirakis in requesting an immediate State Department inquiry into Turkey’s increasingly brazen actions which threaten US interests and international security.”

Middle East Forum Washington Project Director Cliff Smith stated, “Under President Erdogan, Turkey has increasingly become an ally-in-name-only, using their NATO membership as a shield to blunt criticism, more than acting like a true ally. While the bill of indictment against Turkey is long, this is a good step at demonstrating their bad behavior will not go unnoticed, and is not cost free.”

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