Thursday, 18 October 2018

Czech military hardware seen in Azerbaijan despite ban

ČTK |
27 September 2017

Prague, Sept 26 (CTK) - Czech authorities and secret service are investigating how Czech arms, which recently appeared in a video promotion of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, have reached the Caucasus, the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote on Tuesday.

The Czech Republic officially observes an arms embargo against Azerbaijan. The modernised self-propelled gun howitzers Dana-M1 manufactured by the Czechoslovak Group and rocket launchers RM-70 were identified in the video, the daily writes.

According to information of the Azerbaijani Trend News Agency confirmed by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, Czech howitzers Dana appeared in an extensive military exercise of 15,000 soldiers, which took place in Azerbaijan between September 18-22, HN writes.

Azerbaijan has acquired new artillery equipment from the Czech Republic. Self-propelled gun howitzers Dana made by a Czech manufacturer were supplied to Azerbaijan and were involved in extensive manoeuvres with the participation of various types of troops, HN quotes Trend.

Andrej Cirtka, spokesman for the Czechoslovak Group, is quoted by the daily as saying that the company acts in accordance with all valid laws and international rules.

In order to be able to export arms, companies need to obtain a consent by the interior, foreign affairs and defence ministries. All arms deals must approved by the Industry and Trade Ministry eventually, the daily writes.

"The Defence Ministry has not assessed any military materiel export to Azerbaijan. Therefore, we do not know how the army equipment could get there," said Jan Pejsek, the ministry's spokesman.

Irena Valentova, spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told the daily that no permits were issued for export of military materiel to Azerbaijan, while some licences for the export of modernised self-propelled gun howitzers Dana-M1 and rocket launchers RM-70 were rejected in 2016-2017 and the EU partner countries were notified of the rejection.

The Industry and Trade Ministry is now looking into the details of where the howitzers and rocket launchers have been exported in the past years.

There has been tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the early 1990's, in which about 30,000 people died.

The last serious fighting in the area was a four-day shooting in April 2016, in which approximately two hundred soldiers of both armies died, the daily writes.

Both the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued recommendations to their members not to supply arms to both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Czech Republic has joined this non-binding military embargo commitment with the majority of the EU member states.

Last year, Azerbaijan purchased non-lethal weapons worth over one million euros from the Czech Republic, which is three times less than three years ago, the daily writes.

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