Turkey, along with Iran and the United Arab Emirates, have been supplying Ethiopia’s embattled Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with armed drones for months, adding Ethiopia to list of internationalized conflicts, which are affected by the UAVs, the New York Times said on Monday.
After Turkey’s Bayraktar drones appeared in Ethiopia recently, NY Times said, Turkish officials insisted the drone sale was a purely commercial activity.
But the UAVs are “attractive to many African countries seeking battle-tested, relatively cheap hardware with few strings attached,’’ it said.
In August, Ahmet signed a military deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, involving cooperation in what has been viewed as Turkey’s tacit support for the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) and its efforts against insurgents in Tigray.
In Ethiopia, a year-long conflict, in which federal government face forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political group that dominated a repressive Ethiopian government for nearly 30 years, has left thousands dead and over two million displaced. Meanwhile, parts of the country are facing famine.
Reuters in October reported that Ethiopia was in the process of acquiring an unspecified number of Turkish drones, but has yet to finalize the sale. Turkish and Ethiopian officials have yet to confirm deal, the agency said, citing sources which said the deal had yet to be finalized with Addis Ababa.
“Ethiopia can buy these drones from whoever they want,” France 24 news site cited Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying in October, neither confirming or denying the sales.
“Even in Africa, everywhere I go, they want U.A.V.s,” the article cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying in an October after a tour of Nigeria, Togo and Angola.
But Turkish officials have privately claimed to have frozen exports to east African country, according to the NY Times, in a response to international pressure over the ongoing civil war.
Meanwhile, Ahmed on Friday landed in Istanbul for the Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit — a two-day gathering of leaders from 39 African countries that, which according to analysts, doubles up as a platform for Turkish arms sales, the NY Times said.