DITA howitzer exports to Azerbaijan - the Czech Republic has so far applied a restrictive policy. Does CSG want to circumvent the embargo?

DITA howitzer exports to Azerbaijan - the Czech Republic has so far applied a restrictive policy. Does CSG want to circumvent the embargo?
Autor fotografie: Excalibur Army, Public domain|Popisek: DITA self-propelled howitzer
21 / 06 / 2024, 12:00

In mid-May, information about the possible export of at least 70 Dita self-propelled howitzers to Azerbaijan in exchange for gas supplies appeared in the media. However, the embargo stands in the way.

According to Echo24, Azerbaijan has decided to purchase at least 70 Dita self-propelled howitzers of 155 mm calibre (barrel length 45 calibres). The howitzers are developed and manufactured by Excalibur Army, a company belonging to the Czechoslovak Group. The new howitzers were introduced in 2021. Thanks to Dutch support, the Ukrainian artillery will get nine of them – but the sale of more than 70 to Azerbaijan is a contract of a completely different scale. At the same time, it also has somewhat different contexts and, above all, potential obstacles. "It is worth noting that Slovakia, not the Czech Republic, is to be the official supplier," Echo24 wrote, and it is indeed worth noting.

Like the export of DANA howitzers and VAMPIRE rocket launchers in 2017?

The export of artillery systems produced by Czechoslovak Group to Azerbaijan is not the first time it has attracted attention. In 2017, there were shots of DANA howitzers and RM-70 Vampire multiple rocket launchers of the Azerbaijani Army. However, the Czech Republic did not export weapon systems to the country in accordance with the OSCE embargo. The Czechoslovak Group's explanation was that only Tatra chassis were exported. They were transported via Israel to Slovakia, where they were finally converted into self-propelled guns and rocket launchers, and then again via Israel directly to Azerbaijan.

The complex construction was described in detail by investigace.cz in 2019, quoting also a statement by CSG: "CSG respects not only the official UN or EU arms embargoes, but also unofficial ones, where, based on the foreign policy of the Czech Republic and its allies, exports to countries that are not subject to an international binding embargo, but where the export of military equipment is inappropriate due to the security situation, for example, is not allowed." The current supply of more than 70 Dita howitzers appears to be heading towards a similar, though probably simpler, approach, again referring to the 1992 embargo mentioned above.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long pursued a restrictive policy

We asked the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade whether an export licence had been applied for. Both ministries declined to comment on individual applications under the licensing procedure, but the head of the MFA's media communications department supplemented the response with a general statement on whether the Czech Republic felt bound by the embargo: "In considering exports of military equipment and civilian weapons to Armenia, the MFA has long applied a restrictive policy in line with the politically binding 1992 OSCE arms embargo on the supply of arms and ammunition to forces engaged in combat in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The embargo did not specify what weapons and ammunition were involved and interpretation was therefore left to each OSCE member state."

DITA self-propelled howitzers

The Czech Republic has thus far applied a restrictive policy in accordance with the embargo. It is therefore appropriate to ask whether the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is fundamentally changing as a result of recent developments and the defeat of Artsakh in the one-day conflict in September 2023, and whether the Czech Republic should change its current approach. This is a very complex issue, and it cannot be ruled out that by repeating the 2017 model, exporters will try to avoid the complications associated with the Czech approach to the embargo. This time not through Israel and Slovakia, but only Slovakia. Considering the fact that the Dita howitzers are Czech, manufactured by Excalibur Army in Sternberk, in fact Slovakia cannot supply these weapons – the end user of the components or systems exported from the Czech Republic will clearly be Azerbaijan, not Slovakia.

Tagy článku