The Liberal government imposed a suspension on the approval of export permits last fall after Turkish forces launched an incursion into northern Syria.
Canada’s ban on new arms exports to Turkey has been extended indefinitely, Global Affairs confirmed today.
Charles-Marie Matte, deputy director of the export controls division at Global Affairs, said in an email that approvals have been suspended “until further notice.”
The government of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has insisted the incursion was necessary to create a buffer zone against Kurdish militia forces.
Turkey is on a Canadian government list of “trusted” countries where Canadian defence contractors can safely do business and sell sophisticated, restricted weapons.
While some permit applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, the revised notification makes it clear that certain military items “will be presumptively denied” to Turkey. In other words, companies with those goods shouldn’t even bother applying for permission to sell them to Turkey.
The items in question include ammunition, light weapons, armour, protective equipment and electronics.
“Exceptional circumstances” related to Canada’s international alliance commitments might see the government consider issuing a permit, the notice said.
An example might be the export of components for “a NATO missile defence system,” Matte said in an email.
Turkey has said it’s willing to buy U.S.-made MIM-104 Patriot air defence missiles system if it gets a good price from Washington.
The country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was quoted in international publications last week saying his country was interested in the purchase as part of a solution to the stalemate with the Trump administration over the Erdogan government’s purchase of a Russian-made S-400 air defence system.
Cavusoglu also repeated Turkey’s offer to lead “a technical working group” with NATO to iron out concerns about his country operating the Russian system while still being part of the alliance.
U.S. defence contractor Raytheon, which has a branch in Canada, manufactures the Patriot missile system.
Rising tensions with Syria
Since the incursion last fall, tensions between Turkey and Syria have only increased and came close to boiling over last winter.
There were direct clashes between the Turkish army and Syrian government forces in late February and early March. An air strike on rebel-held territory in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib on Feb 27 killed 34 Turkish soldiers.
In response, Turkey shot down three Syrian warplanes and has used armed drones to carry out several attacks on forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Several other countries — including France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Germany — have imposed an arms embargo on Turkey.