ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish defence firm Baykar has delivered 20 armed drones to the United Arab Emirates this month and could sell more, two Turkish sources said, as a diplomatic detente between the former regional rivals expands into military contracts.
International demand for Baykar’s drones soared after their impact on conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, where their laser-guided armor-piercing bombs helped repel an offensive by UAE-supported forces two years ago.
That war in Libya was one of several theatres where the two countries played out a bitter, decade-long battle for influence in the Middle East, until a reconciliation last year.
Now the United Arab Emirates and its ally Saudi Arabia are hoping to leverage their rapprochement with Turkey.
A source with knowledge of the talks said Abu Dhabi and Riyadh were negotiating to acquire Bayraktar TB2 drones from Ankara. “They decided during the negotiations with the UAE to quickly deliver 20 armed drones,” the source said, adding they were transferred earlier this month.
A senior Turkish official confirmed Turkey has delivered some drones to the United Arab Emirates and that the UAE was seeking more. Saudi Arabia also wanted to buy armed drones and to set up a factory to manufacture them, the official said.
The official said Baykar was considering the Saudi request for a manufacturing plant but said that was a strategic decision for President Tayyip Erdogan and that other issues, such as Saudi investments in Turkey, “are not moving as fast as possible”.
Baykar, the UAE foreign ministry and Saudi Arabia’s government communications office did not respond to a request for comment. Turkey’s Defence Ministry referred questions to the state’s defence industries group, which declined to comment.