Azerbaijan may have received Czech arms via Israel

SOURCE: Prague Daily Monitor 29 September 2017

The Czech arms which recently appeared in a video promotion of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces may have reached the country across Israel, the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes on Wednesday.

The Bulgarian server speculates that disassembled weapons may have been transported into Israel which would then be sending them via diplomatic flights to Baku by the Azerbaijani Silk Way Airline, the air routes of which Trud monitored over the summer.

According to two HN sources from the army community, the arms could have been supplied to Azerbaijan via the Israeli company Elbit Systems, which is a long-term partner of the Czechoslovak Group of Czech arms dealer Jaroslav Strnad.

The Czech diplomacy officially states that it does not know how have the modernised self-propelled gun howitzers Dana-M1 manufactured by the Czechoslovak Group and rocket launchers RM-70 reached Azerbaijan, which is subject to an arms embargo by the majority of EU member states, including the Czech Republic.

Further sources of the daily from the Czech diplomatic and security community said that the export of the arms components could have been routed across Slovakia, where the Czechoslovak Group had received a permission for the export of disassembled howitzers and rocket launchers to Israel.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irena Valentova confirmed on Tuesday that the Czech vehicle manufacturer Tatra has exported specially modified undercarriages to Azerbaijan.

“Just because it was a non-lethal materiel and with regard to the ban on the export of military materiel to Azerbaijan,” Valentova told HN.

Azerbaijan has been highly interesting for arms manufactures due to its protracted conflict with Armenia since the early 1990’s and the country’s financial resources due to its enormous crude oil and natural gas reserves, the daily writes.

The Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism (CCIZ) noticed a flow of money from Azerbaijan into the Czech Republic amounting to approximately 40 million crowns that Azerbaijani citizens spent on luxury watches and jewellery, it is not known, however, whether these gifts were given to politicians, the daily quotes Pavla Holcova, a CCIZ journalist.

There is a group of friends of Azerbaijan in the Czech Chamber of Deputies which has 33 members, including its chairman Jan Hamacek, HN writes.

Czech President Milos Zeman had also received a contribution of 2.5 million crowns for his presidential election campaign from Strnad, the daily notes.

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

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