A loophole in the export legislation is allowing Belgian companies to export parts for an aircraft used in the conflict in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The companies continue to deliver parts for the A400M, a military aircraft used by Turkey. The A400M is a project involving six NATO member states, among them are Belgium and Turkey, and its parts are not covered by the embargo, The Brussels Times reported on Dec. 5.
In October last year, Turkey carried out an operation in northern Syria against the People's Protection Units (YPG). Belgian minister-president Jan Jambon reacted by freezing all Belgian government licenses for the export of military equipment to Turkey.
At the time, that concerned four shipments of dual-use equipment – products which normally have civil applications, but which can be used for military ends.The trade has been important for Belgian firms which have exported parts for the project worth €86 million since it began in 2013.
Turkey is not the only country using the aircraft, but it is the most concerning for Belgian authorities. Ankara has used the aircraft, according to the peace institute Vredesactie, to transfer rebels from Syria to new battlegrounds, including Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The A400M has also been allegedly used to transport arms from Turkey to Libya, in breach of another arms embargo.
In a reply to a parliamentary question from Annick Lambrecht (sp.a), Jambon admitted that exports of parts for the A400M fell outside the scope of his embargo. The parts are not delivered to Turkey but to a manufacturing plant in Spain and they are not intended for aircraft destined specifically for Turkey.
“I can confirm that there are no exports of A400M-related spare parts to Turkey,” said Jambon, leading Vredesactie to call for a review of Flanders’ policy on arms exports.
“Generic permits are normally only intended for EU member states, but there is an exception for NATO allies, such as Turkey,” Bram Vranken of Vredesactie told De Morgen.
“The Turkish military actions in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh show that this is not a country that can be exported to without any control. It is time to close this loophole in the legislation.”