Turkish defence industry struggles to go global

Turkey’s defense industry exports have largely been possible through offset arrangements made with foreign arms suppliers. Defense offset agreements, as legal trading practices in the aerospace and military industries, are widely used by many countries as a means of bringing some of the foreign currency going abroad back to the country through arms procurement deals to strengthen local industries through a work share to be given to local companies in a defense project. Yet Turkey’s heavy reliance on offset arrangements in its defense exports, among other things, is hindering its defense industry companies from becoming globally competitive companies.

It is difficult to say that Turkey has used offset commitments in a rational manner to build a stronger local defense industry base. Instead, offset commitments pledged by foreign contractors are sometimes realized in areas such as building additional military headquarters within military compounds instead of focusing on creating technology-based infrastructure.

In essence, offset agreements are protectionist and distort competition.

Hence, any country that receives defense offset commitments must govern these pledges in a transparent and rational manner, minimizing the effects of protectionism, which hinders defense companies from competing at a global level.

Turkey has not yet been able to utilize offset pledges made by foreign contractors to strengthen its defense industry base through the production of critical military technologies despite some of the efforts to this end which have been under way lately.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz emphasized in a November 2013 speech the importance of offset arrangements with foreign contractors for the development of local industries and for the industry to receive work share as well as for defense exports.

According to figures he released, Turkey’s total defense and aerospace turnover reached $4.75 billion as of 2012 while its exports exceeded $1.26 billion.

Turkey’s exports, however, would have been well below those figures stated above without its offset commitments with foreign arms suppliers.

At the end of the day, Turkish defense industry companies are only being fed with offset arrangements and are not encouraged through state policies to create an export industry based on high military technologies.

Turkish companies have been turning into monsters being fed by offsets instead of the country producing global companies.

As a matter of fact, according to a report released by the Turkish Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) on March 15, there were only five defense industry companies out of the 500 largest Turkish companies and only one defense company out of the 100 fastest growing Turkish companies.

One of the recipes for Turkey to create global defense industry companies is through the privatization of military-owned defense companies, including Aselsan, Roketsan and Havelsan as well as the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI).

However, the government’s long-time plan to privatize a large portion of the nation’s defense industry companies and increase efficiency through new competitive bidding processes which could force the liquidation of firms that fail to compete faces opposition from the military. The privatization policy was intended to improve the efficiency of these military firms through downsizing and opening them up to competition.

The current unaccountable status of 18 Turkish military companies, whose shares are partly or fully owned by the Foundation to Strengthen the Turkish Armed Forces (TSKGV), stands as a big hurdle to privatization. Added to the problem is the absence of real will within the government to bring these companies under civilian oversight and to finally privatize them.

As a report released by Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March of this year and written by Professor Nurhan Yentürk pointed out, these 18 military companies — whose military spending is not available either — operate according to the law for private commerce but are managed by public officials, namely the TSKGV’s board of trustees consisting of the defense minister, the deputy chief of General Staff and the undersecretary affiliated with the defense minister.

The government’s legislation from February of this year introducing non-defense commercial offset agreements — a practice that runs contrary to international free trade regulations — in the meantime, has the potential to cause a headache for Turkey in its international trade dealings.

It remains to be seen whether the government will finally implement a privatization plan for defense companies while facing serious accusations of corruption and bribery, some of which are linked to the privatization process of civilian local companies.

Kale throttles up jet development for SOM

Kale Havacilik has accelerated efforts to develop a new jet engine for Turkey’s ‘SOM’ stand-off missiles.

Kale Aerospace’s R&D division manager Burcin Elbirlik has informed TR Defence sources that the company reached an advanced stage in its efforts to build a new engine for the missile and that “right now there’s a working prototype”.

“A new, high-tech test center for jet engines is going to become operational by the end of March. Afterwards, we’ll also begin working on turboprop designs” Elbirlik added.

“During the first tests of the new SOM prototype engine, it caught on fire, but these sorts of mishaps are common with such advanced products. The flaws were fixed and now we have a working engine.”

Kale currently imports a large number of its engine components from international suppliers. But they do hope to produce increasingly more components in-house or at least from domestic manufacturers as the project enters serial production.

 

Cirit fights on for European markets

AH-1W test firing Roketsan Cirit
AH-1W test firing Roketsan Cirit

Following firm orders from the Turkish Armed Forces and the Middle East, missile manufacturer Roketsan is now pitching its Cirit lightweight precision rocket system in Europe.

Cirit is a highly cost-effective weapon system that combines the precision of a laser guided multi-purpose missile with the low price and availability of a 2.75″ rocket.

“There will be a large defence fair in Germany that Turkey will also participate. We want to carry Cirit’s success on to European markets. We hope that this coming fair in Europe will be a good opportunity for Cirit to show itself to new potential buyers” said Mr. Selcuk Yasar, Roketsan’s general manager.

“Cirit has recently finished qualification trials in the United Arab Emirates,” he added.

Last February, Roketsan was successful in securing a $196 million contract with the UAE for a total of 10,000 laser-guided Cirit rockets at the IDEX defence fair in Abu Dhabi. The rockets are to be used primarily aboard UAE’s AT-802 airplanes.

Combat Proven Capability

In the meantime, Roketsan continues to deliver an unspecified number of Cirit rockets to the Turkish Land Forces command. These rockets have been delivered in special smart launchers that are installed in remote, Kalekol-class outposts along Turkey’s south eastern border. These systems have been extremely effective in combating terrorism and illegal smuggling.

Naval Compatibility
In addition to being used by airplanes, UAVs, helicopters and even land-based launchers, Turkey is also adapting Cirit to be used aboard naval platforms. The laser homing, 14-kg guided rocket provides lethal precision strike capability against fast attack crafts and similarly sized platforms at a range of 8 kilometers (5 miles).

From Sakarya to the world: Turkish Armor

Otokar's general manager Serdar Gorguc explains that they're constantly striving to increase their product portfolio with cutting-edge, capable vehicles that don't only meet today's requirements, but can take on the challenges of tomorrow as well.
Otokar’s general manager Serdar Gorguc explains that they’re constantly striving to increase their product portfolio with cutting-edge, capable vehicles that don’t only meet today’s requirements, but can take on the challenges of tomorrow as well.

Located in the small town of Arifiye, Sakarya is a modern factory with huge expectations from the future that has just recently celebrated its 50th birthday. Engineered and produced locally, the Cobra armored vehicle produced by this factory is now in use by 19 countries and the UN. Of course, we’re talking about a rising Turkish pride, Otokar! Developer of the Turkish main battle tank Altay and a growing family of other armored vehicles for the Turkish and allied armed forces.

Otokar’s general manager Serdar Gorguc explains that they’re constantly striving to increase their product portfolio with cutting-edge, capable vehicles that don’t only meet today’s requirements, but can take on the challenges of tomorrow as well.

Gorguc gave Ural, it’s lightest armored vehicle to date, as an example. “Ural is used by the police force. Even though it’s a very new vehicle, the contract for production was promptly signed.”

All this clearly shows the growing worldwide prestige and reliability of Otokar’s product line.

“We have high expectations from the Ural internationally as well. It is a high performance, multifunctional vehicle designed to tackle an array of missions” said Gorguc.

He said that the Cobra vehicle has become an icon of its own throughout the world, even in use by the UN peace forces in various African countries.

Why is cobra so successful? Because it provides best in class protection to its occupants at a cheaper price tag than its competitors. It’s not rocket science, it’s armor science.

Turkey’s national pride: The Altay

“Turkey has gained important international recognition with the Altay project,” Gorguc said.

“Very few countries are capable of designing and manufacturing their own tanks. Entering this elite club, Altay has turned the attention onto Turkey in many regards,” he added.

Tulpar is another important project of Otokar’s. It’s an armored infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) designed to not only safely transport troops in a battlefield environment, but also augment and support Turkey’s main battle tanks with its cutting edge electro-optical sensors and daring fire power.

“Tulpar was developed to go along with the Altay main battle tank. It will carry soldiers to and from the battle zone. It was designed fully NATO compatible with the world’s highest quality standards. It’s currently under vigorous tests, but we have extremely high expectations from it. We’re developing it with primarily Turkey’s military needs in mind but with an eye on a lot of exports as well” Gorguc added.

 

Turkey’s science watchdog under probe over leaked recordings

jenerik-pcThe revelations of an alleged telephone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son allegedly proving their graft has raised questions about the reliability of the country’s scientific watchdog, as it is responsible for providing encrypted telephones for senior state and government officials.

“It is very interesting; they even tap the state’s cryptic phones from [the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey – TÜBİTAK]. A president cannot speak with a prime minister without being wiretapped at an instant,” Erdoğan said Feb. 25, while arguing that the scandal justified the recent bills that gave more control to the government over the Internet and the intelligence agency and announcing similar measures for TÜBİTAK.

Now, according to the results of an examination launched at the watchdog, the state’s top auditing body may also step in. Upon an order by Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işık, a wide examination at the institution has been launched, with an expert team assigned the task. The examination has been extended to both the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) and the Communication Technologies Institution (BTK).

After wiretapping bugs were found in Erdoğan’s office in late December 2011, the Center of Research for Advanced Technologies of Informatics and Security (BİLGEM), working under TÜBİTAK, developed encrypted telephones in 2012. Those phones were tested by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) before being distributed to senior state and government officials, with MİT saying in a report they could not be wiretapped.

However, the codes to cipher the telephones were allegedly leaked, facilitating wiretapping.

Encrypted telephones use different algorithms for ciphering signals, so it is impossible to wiretap them, officials said. “Wiretapping is possible only if codes are leaked,” an official said.

It has been suggested that may be the reason why Erdoğan drew attention to the alleged responsibility of TÜBİTAK in the affair.

Five personnel working at TÜBİTAK were suspended at the outset of the investigation.

“Claims are being examined with all aspects and there may be suspensions at the senior level of TÜBİTAK at the end of the investigation,” an official from the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology said.

The five have already been banned from entering the institution. Depending on the results of the investigation, the State Audit Board (DDK), working under the Presidency and the Prime Ministry Inspection Board, may also intervene in the incident.

In his same speech on Feb. 25 which was delivered after the posting of an 11-minute recording on YouTube on Feb. 24, Erdoğan said: “We will bring legal action against these [wiretapping] activities. If we let it go on, there will be no privacy for families nor for the state in this country.” The video has been watched close to 4 million times in 48 hours.

Also on Feb. 24, reports of widespread wiretapping were published by two pro-government newspapers, prompting Erdoğan to describe it as “the biggest eavesdropping scandal in Turkish history.”

According to reports, hundreds of people, including the prime minister, his closest associates, the head of MİT, as well as a number of journalists, scholars and business leaders, have been tapped by prosecutors.

US still hopeful over Turkey’s long-range SAM bid

A foreign-supplied Patriot missile launcher is pictured at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. NATO allies have stepped up pressure on Turkey to walk away from a deal to purchase an anti-missile system from China. Other bidders include the US, with the Patriot system, and Eurosam, which builds the Aster 30. (AFP/Getty Images)
A foreign-supplied Patriot missile launcher is pictured at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep in February 2013. NATO allies have stepped up pressure on Turkey to walk away from a deal to purchase an anti-missile system from China. Other bidders include the US, with the Patriot system, and Eurosam, which builds the Aster 30. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Turkish government and the country’s largest defense company are under increasing pressure from Turkey’s NATO allies to rethink a September decision to award a $3.44 billion air defense contract to a Chinese bidder.

Procurement officials have privately admitted that if Turkey finalizes the deal with the Chinese manufacturer, its entire defense cooperation effort with Western counterparts, including defense and non-defense companies, could be jeopardized.

“I think there is growing concern in Ankara over that deal,” one official familiar with the program said. “These concerns will definitely play a role in final decision-making, although they alone cannot be a reason to change course.”

Specifically, officials with Turkish company Aselsan are concerned that its connection to the deal could harm its corporate relations with Western banks.

In September, Turkey selected China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) to construct the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system. The Turkish government said it opted for the Chinese solution based mainly on deliberations over price and technology transfer.

The Chinese contender defeated a US partnership of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, offering the Patriot air defense system; Russia’s Rosoboronexport, marketing the S-300; and Italian-French consortium Eurosam, maker of the Aster 30.

Turkish officials said if contract negotiations with CPMIEC fail, talks would be opened with the second-place finisher, Eurosam. Next in line would be the US bidder. The Russian option has been eliminated.

But NATO and US officials have said any Chinese-built system could not be integrated with Turkey’s joint air defense assets with NATO and the United States.

They also have warned that any Turkish company that may act as local subcontractor in the program would face serious US sanctions because CPMIEC is on a US list of companies to be sanctioned under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

US diplomats have said Turkish companies working on US products or technology could be subject to intense scrutiny, or requested to adopt stringent security measures to erect a wall between US technology-related activities and CPMIEC.

They said the sanctions would be imposed on any company or individual cooperating with the blacklisted companies, especially when the use of US technology is in question.

In December, Aselsan, potentially CPMIEC’s main Turkish partner in the contract, became the first casualty of the US sanctions. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a US investment bank, pulled out of a joint bid to advise Aselsan on its second listing on Istanbul’s stock exchange, citing Turkey’s contract negotiations with CPMIEC.

Aselsan’s management shrugged it off and said it would select another bank for the task.

But the procurement official said that Aselsan’s concern over corporate repercussions has increased.

“I think they now view the deal potentially punishing for the company,” he said.

One Aselsan official admitted that after Merrill Lynch’s pullout, the company has been in talks for the underwriting with two more international banks, Barclays and Goldman Sachs. Both have echoed the same concerns, pointing to possible US sanctions.

“The press reports over difficulties with these two banks are correct,” one Aselsan official confirmed on condition of anonymity. “Other investment banks do not look promising. We may wait for a better timing for the listing.”

The difficulties over a Chinese air and anti-missile defense architecture for NATO member Turkey also were discussed during French President François Hollande’s recent visit here.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who accompanied Hollande during the Jan. 27 visit, met with Murad Bayar, Turkey’s top defense procurement official.

“Inevitably, the program was discussed at the top level, with the French raising concerns and urging the Turkish government to rethink the deal,” one senior government official said.

Similarly, the same official said, the Americans are voicing their concerns on an almost daily basis through various channels.

He said he could not comment on how the diplomatic offensive is influencing the government’s decision.

The Turkish government has extended an end-of-January deadline for the US and European competitors to rebid for the contract.

The Turkish program consists of radar, launcher and interceptor missiles to counter enemy aircraft and missiles. Turkey has no long-range air defense system.

About half of Turkey’s network-based air defense picture has been paid for by NATO. The country is part of NATO’s Air Defense Ground Environment.

Without NATO’s consent, it will be impossible for Turkey to make the planned Chinese system operable with these assets, some analysts said.

Turkish PM seeks more control over procurement

akpartilogoThough embattled by recent corruption scandals, the Turkish government continues to reshape the civilian-military balance in procurement decisions, proposing to extend the terms of commanders it deems “government-friendly.”

A draft bill proposed to Parliament Jan. 21 empowers Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to extend the terms of top brass. It states that the terms of the commanders of the Land Forces, Navy and Air Force may be extended “upon recommendation by the chief of General Staff and endorsement by the prime minister.”

If passed, the bill could keep the incumbents in office until 2016-’17 (depending on the commander’s retirement age), including Army Gen. Necdet Ozel, chief of the General Staff.

Experts and industry sources agreed that an annual reshuffle in August underscored a visible shift in power from the generals to civilians in controlling defense procurement.

They said the new command structure featured generals who would fully respect the government’s authority in procurement and politics, agreeing to retreat to a minimal role in specifying requirements and choosing bidders.

The Supreme Military Council, which is led by Erdogan and decides on promotions and retirements of top military officers, announced in August the unexpected retirement of the country’s paramilitary gendarmarie force commander, Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu, who had been the leading candidate to take over Land Forces. Kalyoncu was viewed as a government critic.

Instead, Gen. Hulusi Akar was given the job and, according to custom, would be expected to replace Ozel as armed forces chief in 2015. But under the new law, he could remain longer.

In the same reshuffle, Vice Adm. Bulent Bostanoglu was appointed commander of the Navy, Lt. Gen. Akin Ozturk as head of the Air Force, and Gen. Servet Yoruk as commander of the gendarmarie.

“The government and military wings of the procurement mechanism have been working in perfect harmony and coordination,” a senior procurement official said Jan. 27. The official would not comment on the draft bill.

In the 1990s, the generals had the upper hand in procurement decisions. Since Erdogan rose to power in 2002 and subsequently won three landslide election victories, the military’s role in politics and procurement has diminished.

“The draft bill clearly indicates Erdogan’s intentions to maintain the favorable procurement [and political] equilibrium in which he feels safe and can run his one-man show,” one London-based Turkey specialist said.

A senior Turkish military officer declined to comment.

In October 2012, Erdogan’s government introduced new rules to regulate procurement and broaden the jurisdiction and administrative powers of the civilian procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM). Under the new rules, a program takes off when a military request for a weapon system has been approved by the SSM and the defense minister.

The SSM is solely responsible for determining the ideal modality for every procurement program. It also can buy from a single source when it deems necessary due to “national interest, confidentiality, monopoly of technological capabilities and meeting urgent requirements.”

Analysts said the new rules, coupled with the profile of the incumbent top brass, means the “one-man show in procurement in the powerful personality of the prime minister would be bolstered.”

“That’s precisely why Erdogan wants to have the current commanders in office longer than they could stay under the present regulations,” said one defense expert here.

Several programs and contracts spanning the next few years and amounting to billions of dollars await critical decisions.

Turkey will decide in about a year whether to stick by a September award of a $3.44 billion contract to China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. to build Turkey’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense architecture.

Turkey has come under increasing pressure from its NATO allies, especially the US, to change course. The Chinese contractor is on a US sanctions list as part of the Iran, Syria and North Korea Non-Proliferation Act. Turkey has said it would turn to European and US bidders if talks with the Chinese contender fail.

Under Erdogan, the procurement bureaucracy also will decide whether to sign an $800 million contract with Sedef, an Istanbul shipyard partnered with Spain’s Navantia to build Turkey’s first landing platform dock ship; select another shipyard to construct four Milgem corvettes; decide whether to sign a multibillion-dollar deal with Sikorsky to buy utility helicopters; pick up a serial production contractor for the locally developed Altay new-generation main battle tank; and decide on Turkey’s future in the US-led F-35 program.

DefenseNews

Turkey, Sikorsky ink $3.5 billion helicopter deal

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that his government and US helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft had signed a long-dormant contract to co-produce an initial batch of 109 utility helicopters.

“We signed the $3.5 billion agreement today,” Erdogan said in televised remarks during a ceremony for the delivery by Boeing of Turkey’s first airborne early warning and control aircraft. “This [Sikorsky deal] was an important signing ceremony for us.”

In May, Turkey’s procurement office made an unusual announcement: Turkey “had come very close to signing a $3.5 billion contract with Sikorsky Aircraft for the co-production of scores of utility helicopters.” But penning the deal had since been delayed as top Turkish procurement management accused “US corporate and other bureaucracy” for factors that caused delays.

Turkey in 2011 selected Sikorsky as its partner company to lead production of the country’s next-generation utility helicopters. Sikorsky defeated Italian-British AgustaWestland by bidding its T-70, the Turkish version of its S-70 Black Hawk International.

The S-70 Black Hawk International is used by dozens of militaries, including Turkey. AgustaWestland was competing with its TUHP 149, the Turkish version of its newly developed A-149.

The first batch will be for 109 utility helicopters, but with follow-on orders, more than 600 platforms could be built at a cost of more than $20 billion, defense analysts said.

Most helicopters in the first batch will go to the military, with the Gendarmerie receiving the largest portion, and the Army, Navy, Air Force and the special forces command each getting their share. The remaining machines will go to the Security Directorate, meaning the police forces, and to the Firefighting Department.

DefenseNews

Turkey likely to order F-35s next year

Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp's factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin.
Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp’s factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin.

Turkey is likely to start ordering F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) from 2015 onwards and it will start with two orders initially, Turkey’s undersecretary for state-run defense industries Murad Bayar said on Thursday.

“We will start F-35 orders either this year or the next. Right now, it is likely to be next year,” Bayar told reporters. “We will initially order two. The delivery time will be, depending on the orders, probably in 2017-2018.”

Turkey had already announced it plans to buy 100 F-35 jets for $16 billion. Bayar said he expected the deliveries of 100 aircraft to be completed within 10 years.

The F-35, considered to be the world’s most expensive weapons program at $396 billion so far, was designed to be the next-generation fighter jet for the U.S. forces.

It is being built by the United States, Britain and seven other co-development partners – Italy, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Separately, Bayar said Turkey was aiming to achieve results in April on its talks with China over the purchase of long-range missile defense systems, a move highly criticized by Turkey’s NATO allies.

In September Turkey chose China’s FD-2000 missile-defense system over rival offers from Franco-Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and U.S.-listed Raytheon Co (RTN.N). It said China offered the most competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey.

U.S. and NATO officials have raised concerns with Turkish officials about the decision to buy the system from CPMIEC, a company hit by U.S. sanctions for sales of items to either Iran, Syria or North Korea that are banned under U.S. laws to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Our talks with China are ongoing. We have extended the bidding until the end of April. We are aiming to get results in early April on this,” Bayar said.

AIRBUS DELIVERIES

Bayar also said Turkey will seek compensation over the late delivery of the A400 military transport plane after Airbus (AIR.PA) failed to meet some of its contractual obligations.

“My message to Airbus is that it should first focus on fulfilling the terms of the contract. There is no additional bargaining here. The contract, even with the amended version, requires the fulfillment of certain technical qualities and we have had to hold these talks because these requirements were not completely fulfilled,” Bayar said.

On Wednesday, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said bargaining was behind the delay and that it was ‘unbearable’ that the company was still negotiating with Turkey over the plane.

“The aircraft is ready to go. It is instantly, operationally fit for flight. I find the situation increasingly unacceptable,” Enders told reporters.

Bayar said he still expected the aircraft, which was supposed to have been delivered to Turkey at the end of last year, to arrive in March but Turkey was going to ask for compensation.

“Of course there has been a delay in the delivery schedule and there will be compensation because of this. This will be the financial dimension,” Bayar said.

Meanwhile, Bayar said Japan had told Turkey that it will not allow the export of a Japanese tank engine to third parties without its permission.

His comments came after Japanese media reported that a deal between Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe was struck in May, during Abe’s visit to Turkey, on the supply of engines, but that Turkey’s desire to export to third parties was likely to block the deal.

Bayar said that the potential purchase of the engine for Turkey’s Altay tank was dropped for now.

“We have agreed with Japanese authorities to leave this topic off the agenda and focus on other areas of cooperation.”

His comments appeared to close the door on a potential deal for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) to supply engines for the Altay tank being developed by Turkey’s Otokar (OTKAR.IS).

Reuters

Pakistan denies plans to arm Syrian rebels

syrian-rebelPakistan on Thursday strongly denied it had any plans to send weapons to Syrian rebels, following reports that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with it about arming the opposition.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said at a regular briefing that Islamabad did not supply arms to “entities”, meaning rebel groups, and respected Syria’s sovereignty.

“The policy guidelines for the sale of arms that we have are in line with the adherence to the purposes and principles of the UN charter,” she said.

Pakistan recognized the right of all states to protect their security, she said, and wanted an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

She stressed that “regime change from outside by any means is something that Pakistan has persistently and very strongly opposed”.

“We also have what is known as end users’ certificate which ensures that our weapons are not resold or provided to a third country,” she said.

“Our position on Syria has been very clear and has been articulated again and again.”

A Saudi source said Sunday that Riyadh was seeking Pakistani anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets for forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebels have long sought anti-aircraft rockets to defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordnance.

The United States has opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists.

But Syrian opposition figures say the failure of peace talks in Geneva seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.

The nearly three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Aslam said Pakistan had taken note of the humanitarian situation in Syria and wanted to see the Syrian people getting the supplies they needed.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying the rebels with shoulder-launched rocket launchers, saying it would endanger security across the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Syria shipped out a consignment of mustard gas for destruction at sea under a disarmament deal approved by the UN Security Council to dispose of its chemical weapons.

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