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Canada unfreezes talks with Turkey on export controls after NATO move: report

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Canada has unfrozen talks with Turkey on lifting export controls on drone parts after Ankara gave its nod for Sweden to join NATO, a person familiar with the talks told Reuters, a move seen as one of several concessions won in exchange for the Turkish blessing.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s green light, which ended more than a year of opposition to Sweden’s membership bid, came as a surprise even to allies at home who had supported him in demanding Stockholm first take steps against groups deemed terrorists by Ankara.

Erdoğan’s decision, announced ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Vilnius, was followed quickly by a statement from Washington that the United States would move ahead with a transfer of F-16 fighter jets in consultation with Congress.

In a potentially significant move for Turkey’s defense industry, NATO member Canada agreed to re-open talks on lifting export controls on drone parts including optical equipment, the person familiar with the talks said, declining to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss details with media.

Canada suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey in 2020 after concluding the equipment had been used by Azerbaijan’s forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Those export controls, which “were imposed for important reasons,” remain in place, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office said in statement.

“The Prime Minister discussed Sweden’s accession to NATO with our partners in Vilnius, including with President Erdoğan,” the statement said.

“Canada remains committed to the principle that there should be no restrictions, barriers or sanctions to defense trade and investments among Allies.”

Ahead of the NATO summit, Turkey, already seeking assurances over the F-16s in talks with Washington, asked that Canada’s export controls also be rolled in to the final discussion, the person familiar with the talks said.

Turkey sought “a package deal,” the person said.

Canada agreed to reopen talks on the matter that had been frozen since Turkey initially objected to NATO membership bids by both Sweden and Finland last year as long as Turkey pledged to ratify Sweden’s bid at Vilnius, the person said.

At Vilnius, Canada outlined its position to Turkey on rules regarding uses of any exported technologies, and was awaiting a response. This means the talks on export controls are no longer frozen, a move that helped play a role sealing Erdoğan’s pledge over Sweden, the person said.

Asked whether Turkey was in talks with Canada to lift export curbs, a Turkish defense ministry official said it was unacceptable for NATO allies to impose export restrictions on each other and that “a certain progress has been made at the Vilnius Summit on that issue.”

“But we will follow the results of the negotiations and decision taken at the Vilnius summit,” the official said.

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