RIYADH: A Turkish firm will provide drones to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh said Tuesday following a visit by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that aims to attract foreign investment. Several contracts, including the drone deal with the privately-owned Baykar, were signed during a meeting between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on Monday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Haluk Bayraktar, CEO of the drone manufacturer which is co-run by one of Erdogan’s sons-in-laws, in a tweet called the deal “the biggest defense and aviation export contract in the history of the Turkish Republic”.
The value of the deal has not been made public. Erdogan, who in May elections won another five-year term, was in Saudi Arabia to kick off a Gulf tour seeking to drum up support for Turkey’s faltering economy. The Turkish leader is expected in neighboring Qatar later on Tuesday. After attending a Saudi-Turkish business forum in Jeddah on Monday, Erdogan and Prince Mohammed discussed “prospects for joint cooperation” in their meeting, SPA reported.
The two leaders signed cooperation agreements in the fields of energy, direct investment, defense and media, the report said. It added that Saudi officials also signed “two contracts with the Turkish company Baykar”. Drones developed by Baykar have been used in Azerbaijan, Libya and Ukraine. Saudi Arabia “will acquire drones with the aim of enhancing the readiness of the kingdom’s armed forces and bolstering its defense and manufacturing capabilities”, Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said on Tuesday.
He did not specify the type of drone the kingdom is looking to procure. An Arab diplomat in Riyadh, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press, said it was Baykar’s TB2 model. Last month, Kuwait said it struck a $367-million agreement to procure TB2 drones. This week’s visit is Erdogan’s second to Saudi Arabia since a recent rapprochement between Ankara and Riyadh, whose ties were strained by the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. Erdogan’s current Gulf trip comes as Turkey battles a currency collapse and soaring inflation that has battered its economy. In March, Saudi Arabia deposited $5 billion in Turkey’s central bank. – AFP