Dutch Damen Shipyards considers building military naval vessels for Azerbaijan, a country that is involved in an arms race with neighboring Armenia.
Mid Janauary, Kommer Damen CEO and owner of Damen Shipyards visited the World Economic Forum in Davos to strengthen cooperation with Azerbaijan. He met the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev personally to discuss construction of military and civilian vessels and ships for unspecified government tasks, reports Trend News Agency.
Photo: Kommer Damen of Damen Shipyards talking with president Aliyev of Azerbaijan at WEF in Davos
Azerbaijan borders the Caspian Sea in the turbulent Caucasus. It is currently engaged in an arms race with neighboring Armenia. The Bonn International Center for Conversion stated in a rcent report that Armenia and Azerbaijan belong to the ten most militarized countries in the world. Armenia ranks third, a higher position than even Syria.
In 2013, Armenia’s military expenditure reached the amount of 427 million dollars. Azerbaijan spent $ 3.4 billion in the same year on the military. In Armenia about 4 percent of the Gross National Product was spent on defense, in Azerbaijan 4.7 percent. Compared with other European countries this is significant. On top of imports Azerbaijan boosted its own arms production substantially.
Scientific research indicates that countries in a potential conflict area which buy huge amounts of weapons have a bigger chance to get at war with each other. And with Azerbaijan and Armenia, conflict is never far away; allthough there is a ceasefire since the war of 1994, throughout 2014 a total of 72 people were killed on both sides.
Human Rights Watch states in its annual report for 2014 that: “The Azerbaijani government’s poor record on freedom of expression, assembly, and association dramatically deteriorated during the year. This crackdown was the backdrop for the October 2013 presidential election, in which incumbent President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a third term with 84.5 percent of the vote.”
The Dutch branch of Amnesty International recently launched a campaign for the release of two Azeri human rights activists, Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif, who were arrested last year on charges of treason and fraud. According to Amnesty, the charges were made up to silence the activists in the run-up to the first edition of the European Games next summer.
Meanwhile, the largest arms exporter in the Netherlands, Kommer Damen, visits the Azerbaijani President in Davos to discuss military production. Not only from a human rights point of view is this irrsponsible, but also because of the tense situation in the region. The deal might circumvent the Dutch arms export guidelines. Damen Shipyards Group is a company that operates in 18 countries and has 35 shipyards and builds complete warships in Asia, the America’s, Africa and other parts of Europe. Vessels do not necessarily have to come from the Netherlands.
Thales Nederland, another prominent Dutch arms exporter, once said that is will never bite the hand that feeds it. For Damen, the hand that feeds is the Dutch government, its first costumer for many new designed naval vessels and its provider of export support when selling them abroad. Damen for example knows very well how to use the attractive Dutch state export credit guarantees and Oret Miliev development grants. In the case of Azerbaijan, one must hope that the Dutch government will warn Damen not to sell military vessels, instead of giving its support.
Dutch version see Ravage Webzine