CARLSBAD, Calif. — A Carlsbad-based company says it will stop supplying drone technology to Turkey after accusations it was being used against civilians in Artsakh, the small region at the center of the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The territory lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. The current fighting that started Sept. 27 marks the worst escalation in the conflict since the war’s end.
According to Artsakh officials, 927 of their troops have been killed, and more than 30 civilians also have died. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, but says 63 civilians have been killed and 292 have been wounded. Armenia officially isn’t engaged in the fighting.
Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of targeting its towns and villages with artillery and missiles, which Armenian authorities have denied.
Turkey has vowed to support its longtime ally Azerbaijan “on the battlefield or the negotiating table.” It has trained Azerbaijani military and provided it with strike drones and long-range rocket systems that gave Azerbaijan a strong edge on the battlefield. Armenia accuses Turkey of being more directly involved in the fighting.
Hundreds of Armenians protested recently in front of the Carlsbad headquarters for Viasat, Inc., a defense business that provides high technology products to the United States military as well as its coalition partners and NATO allies. The demonstrators argued Viasat technology sent to Turkey is being used to kill innocent people.
“They are here today because, in fact, their families are in peril in Armenia. Christian Armenians are being killed by Turkish-made drones,” Donald Wilson Bush told FOX 5.
Bush is the president of the newly formed Armenian National Association. He said they’re demanding two things: That Viasat stop selling drone parts to Turkey, which he says are then being used by Azeri armed forces, and that the company ensure there’s no continuing service with any devices or components that are still in play.
“I’ve been assured that those two demands are met and that all of the Viasat compliance measures with NATO are still enforced,” Bush said.
Viasat confirmed this latest development: “At Viasat, we have ceased shipment of products in this kind of nature to Turkey and to the defense-industrial base in Turkey,” Ken Peterman, the president of Viasat’s government systems business, said.
He wanted to make it very clear the company is not shipping any products to Turkey nor providing any satellite-based services at the current time.
“We have delivered some of these products to the Turkish military and the Turkish defense industrial base. To be clear, we don’t know if these products are involved and being misused and misapplied in this terrorism, in this genocide,” Peterman said.
He says as a company, Viasat doesn’t condone the use of military force against civilians, and he offered his condolences to the hundreds of lives lost in the conflict. The company’s Canada division has also ceased shipments of all similar types of products to Turkey.
Heavy fighting raged again Friday in Artsakh, even as top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan traveled to Washington for negotiations on settling the neighboring countries’ decades-long conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled talks with both nations’ foreign ministers follow two failed Russian attempts to broker a cease-fire.
A Viasat spokesperson said the company hopes Pompeo can bring an end to the blood-shed.