Saudi Arabia, Turkey strengthen ties with drone deal during Erdogan’s visit


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government announced on Tuesday that it has secured a deal with a Turkish firm for the procurement of drones. The deal was finalized between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Monday, aiming to bolster foreign investment and strengthen bilateral relations.

The privately-owned drone manufacturer, Baykar, signed several contracts with Saudi officials, including the landmark drone deal, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Haluk Bayraktar, the CEO of Baykar and also Erdogan’s son-in-law, described the agreement as “the biggest defense and aviation export contract in the history of the Turkish Republic” in a tweet. The financial details of the deal, however, have not been disclosed.

President Erdogan, who recently won another five-year term in May’s elections, embarked on a Gulf tour to seek support for Turkey’s struggling economy. Following his visit to Saudi Arabia, Erdogan is scheduled to travel to neighboring Qatar later today.

During a Saudi-Turkish business forum in Jeddah, Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed discussed potential areas of cooperation. The two leaders signed agreements covering energy, direct investment, defense, and media, as reported by the SPA. The Saudi officials also inked “two contracts with the Turkish company Baykar,” the statement added.

Baykar’s drones, known as the TB2 model, have been employed in conflicts in Azerbaijan, Libya, and Ukraine. Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, announced that the acquisition of drones is aimed at enhancing the kingdom’s armed forces’ readiness and reinforcing defense and manufacturing capabilities. However, he did not specify the exact type of drone being procured.

An anonymous Arab diplomat in Riyadh confirmed that the drones in question were Baykar’s TB2 model. Last month, Kuwait announced a $367 million agreement to acquire TB2 drones.

This visit marks Erdogan’s second trip to Saudi Arabia since the recent reconciliation between Ankara and Riyadh. Ties between the two nations were strained after the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey’s vigorous pursuit of the case, conducting an investigation and disclosing the gruesome details to international media, had angered Saudi Arabia. However, with the mending of relations, Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2022, and Prince Mohammed visited Turkey in June of the previous year.

Erdogan’s current Gulf tour comes at a time when Turkey is grappling with a currency collapse and soaring inflation, both of which have severely impacted its economy. In March, Saudi Arabia deposited $5 billion in Turkey’s central bank as a support measure.

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