According to an extensive investigative report published by the Bulgarian Trud newspaper, during the last three years, at least 350 diplomatic flights on board Silk Way Airlines—an Azerbaijani state-run company—have transported weapons for war conflicts across the world.
Reported by Dilyana Gaytandzhieva who received a trove of documents from an anonymous Twitter account—Annonymous Bulgaria—the article says that Silk Way Airlines has carried tens of tons of heavy weapons and ammunition headed to terrorists under the cover of diplomatic flights.
The leaked files include correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria with attached documents for weapons deals and diplomatic clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and many other European countries, USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, to name a few.
According to the documents, Silk Way Airlines offered diplomatic flights to private companies and arms manufacturers from the US, Balkans, and Israel, as well as to the militaries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the military forces of Germany and Denmark in Afghanistan and of Sweden in Iraq.
Diplomatic flights are exempt of checks, air bills, and taxes, meaning that Silk Way airplanes freely transported hundreds of tons of weapons to different locations around the world without regulation. They made technical landings with stays varying from a few hours to up to a day in intermediary locations without any logical reasons such as needing to refuel the planes.
According to the documents, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has sent instructions to its embassies in Bulgaria and many other European countries to request diplomatic clearance for Silk Way Airlines flights.
“Some of the weapons that Azerbaijan carried on diplomatic flights were used by its military in Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia. In 2016, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of using white phosphorus. Armenia denied the allegations and in turn accused Azerbaijan of fabrication, as the only piece of evidence was based on a single unexploded grenade found by Azerbaijan’s soldiers. According to the documents from the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Sofia, white phosphorus munitions were carried on a diplomatic flight via Baku the previous year,” the report reads.
U.S. sends $1 billion worth of weapons
“Among the main customers of the “diplomatic flights for weapons” service provided by Silk Way Airlines are American companies, which supply weapons to the US army and US Special Operations Command. The common element in these cases is that they all supply non-US standard weapons; hence, the weapons are not used by the US forces,” said the report.
“According to the register of federal contracts, over the last 3 years American companies were awarded $1 billion contracts in total under a special US government program for non-US standard weapon supplies. All of them used Silk Way Airlines for the transport of weapons. In some cases when Silk Way was short of aircraft due to a busy schedule, Azerbaijan Air Force aircraft transported the military cargo, although the weapons never reached Azerbaijan,” reported Gaytandzhieva.
Artsakh Presidential Spokesman Responds
After the publication of the Truda report, Artsakh Presidential spokesperson David Babayan told Public Radio of Armenia that the “Azerbaijan established ties with terrorism at the time it gained independence.”
“This is a well-known fact to everyone, especially the special services of the countries, which immediately deal with the Islamic State and the threat of terrorism,” Babayan told Public Radio of Armenia.
“Chechen militants were getting treated in Azerbaijan during the first and second Chechen wars. It was also providing medical services to Mujahideen during the Afghan war and the Grey Wolves Turkish extremist group, as well as other groupings, which were fighting against Artsakh during the first Artsakh war and the four-day war in April,” said Babayan.
He stressed however that merely reporting the facts was not enough and concrete actions should be taken based on the revelations.
“The international community has a lot to do here. The international community should take measures,” he told Public Radio of Armenia, adding that “we often see adverse developments instead.” “They entrust Baku to host first European Games, the Formula 1, a number of forums and conferences instead of taking anti-terrorist measures against the country.”
“These developments are the logical outcome of the world’s silence in response to Aliyev’s statement on the intention to down civilian planes flying between Stepanakert and Yerevan,” said Babayan, adding that “an evil grows into an epidemics if not uprooted at the beginning. Azerbaijan is one of the countries spreading the epidemics, one of the cradles of international terrorism.”