U.S. lawmakers demand investigation into Turkish drone program

Twenty-five U.S. Representatives have joined Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) in a bipartisan call upon 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, a move strongly supported by the Hellenic American Leadership Association (HALC), American Friends of Kurdistan, Hindu American Foundation, In Defense of Christians, Middle East Forum, and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Turkish Bayraktar drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh last fall were discovered to contain at least 10 parts manufactured in the United States or by firms with subsidiaries or affiliates in the United States. 

In a bipartisan letter sent last week to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the twenty-seven U.S. Representatives asked him to issue a report on the ramifications of Turkey’s drone industry, with special attention to whether they include U.S. technologies that violate U.S. sanctions.  “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.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian noted, “We want to thank Reps. Cicilline and Bilirakis and each of the more than two dozen legislators – Democratic and Republican – who joined in this bipartisan call for Turkey to be held to account. A State Department investigation is long overdue into Turkey’s drone program – with a special focus on the discovery of U.S. parts in the Bayraktar drones deployed by Azerbaijan against the indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh.”

“Turkey has for too long treated its privileged relationship with the American defense industry as a license to disregard America’s core interests, its values, and its partnerships around the world.  Turkey’s drone program is but the latest way this purported ally threatens American interests – and arguably violates American law.  Bravo to the 27 members of the House led by Representatives Cicilline and Bilirakis for putting the spotlight on this threat.  Turkey’s disingenuous charm offensive has fallen flat and now it is back on defense,” said Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.

Hindu American Foundation Director of Public Policy Taniel Koushakjian noted, “The Hindu American Foundation applauds Reps. Ciciline and Bilirakis for their leadership and all of the signatories for sounding the alarm over the announced joint production of combat UAV’s by Turkey, Pakistan and Russia. Pakistan’s introduction of terror drone warfare in Kashmir last month is an emerging threat to peace and stability in the region and the response from the US and world leaders must be swift.”

Joining Representatives Cicilline and Bilirakis in cosigning the letter to Secretary of State Blinken are Representatives: Colin Allred (D-TX), Don Bacon (R-NE), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Al Green (D-TX), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chris Papas (D-NH), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Norma Torres (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Michael Waltz (R-FL).

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