Saudi Arabia Purchases Turkish Drones During Erdogan’s Diplomatic Visit

Saudi Arabia Purchases Turkish Drones During Erdogan's Diplomatic Visit
Credit: Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
In a landmark deal marking a significant milestone in Turkey’s defense industry, Saudi Arabia has agreed to procure Turkish drones. This agreement, the largest defense contract in Turkey’s history, comes as President Tayyip Erdogan’s diplomatic efforts bear fruit, mending ties with Gulf powers and providing a much-needed boost to Ankara’s struggling economy.

President Erdogan, alongside Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, attended the signing ceremony between Turkish defense firm Baykar and the Saudi defense ministry, according to the Saudi state news agency SPA.

Erdogan’s Gulf tour commenced with his arrival in Jeddah, a Saudi Red Sea city, on Monday. The Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, tweeted that the acquisition of the drones aims to enhance the readiness of the kingdom’s armed forces, while bolstering defense capabilities and fostering domestic manufacturing.

Although the value of the deal was not disclosed by SPA, Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of Baykar, confirmed on Twitter that it stands as Turkey’s most significant defense and aviation export contract to date. He announced the contract for the export and cooperation of the Bayraktar Akinci (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) with the Saudi Arabian defense ministry.

Since 2021, investments and financial support from Gulf nations have alleviated pressure on Turkey’s economy and currency reserves. This positive development followed Ankara’s diplomatic endeavor to repair relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For years, Turkey had been at odds with these Gulf states due to its support of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the tragic murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Following his visit to Saudi Arabia, Erdogan is scheduled to travel to Qatar as the second stop on his Gulf tour. The tour is particularly significant as it marks Erdogan’s first visit to the region since his reelection in May. Subsequently, he will proceed to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

According to SPA, Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed attended the signing of a defense cooperation plan between Prince Khalid and Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler.

The diversification of the kingdom’s economy away from oil has been a crucial aspect of Crown Prince Mohammed’s ambitious plan. Consequently, the development of a local military industry forms an integral part of this strategic vision.

In a separate statement, Baykar highlighted that the agreement with Riyadh includes technology transfer and joint production, aiming to advance the high technology development capabilities of both nations.

Furthermore, the two countries signed multiple memorandums of understanding spanning various sectors, including energy, real estate, and direct investments, as reported by SPA.

Last month, Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek visited the UAE to explore economic cooperation opportunities. During their visit, they met with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, signaling a positive step toward enhanced bilateral relations, as confirmed by Ankara.

Recent data revealed that Turkey’s budget deficit in June surged to seven times the levels recorded a year ago. Additionally, last month’s annual inflation neared 40%, while the lira has experienced a decline of nearly 29% this year.

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