In an interview to Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper, the minister reminded that the two countries have been strategic partners since 2007.
“Our cooperation and bilateral relations are developing day by day in almost every field such as defense, trade, education and health. We definitely want to accelerate the SAMP-T Air Defense System project,” Il Messaggero quoted Akar as saying on Dec. 19.
“In addition, field-tested Turkish defense industry products offer new opportunities for bilateral cooperation. I worked closely with Lorenzo Guerini, Italy’s former defense minister, and I look forward to further developing this relationship with current Defense Minister Guido Crosetto,” the minister added.
He reminded that SAMP-T defense systems were also discussed at a recent meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
On the question about the state of current Italian-Turkish cooperation in the defense industry and more generally in the security of the entire Mediterranean area, the minister said Türkiye and Italy were two important allies on the southern flank of NATO, had common traditional values and a common Mediterranean culture for a long time.
Ankara made an initial deal with the French-Italian consortium on July 14, 2017, to develop Türkiye’s national defense air systems and signed an agreement in early 2018 for an 18-month-long study to determine the needs and priorities for the potential joint production of an anti-ballistic missile system. The proposed system would be a more developed version of Eurosam’s current SAMP-T air defense systems.
The process was first interrupted after Türkiye’s “Operation Peace Spring” into northern Syria in 2019, which was condemned by the French Parliament.
Talks with the Italian-French consortium came at a moment when Türkiye was under fierce pressure from the United States and other NATO countries because of its procurement of Russia’s S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems.
In March, Italy’s former Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Türkiye, Italy and France will resume trilateral cooperation on defense.
Asked about Türkiye’s improving capacities in the defense industry and its impact on NATO, the minister stressed that as a strong and reliable ally for 70 years, Ankara had always made vital contributions to transatlantic security and the country was at the center of Alliance, shares and fulfills all its values and responsibilities.
Emphasizing that the ever evolving and unpredictable security environment requires a strong domestic defense industry, Akar continued, “Undoubtedly, having advanced national defense capabilities also increases NATO’s power. It is clear that the stronger our forces as Allies, the stronger NATO will be collectively.”
That is why Türkiye attaches great importance to cooperation with its allies, including Italy, on defense technology and product development, he said.
“Our preference is always and above all to cooperate with our allies. However, unfortunately, we are faced with unfair restrictions imposed by some of our allies on defense industry cooperation, which negatively affects not only Türkiye but also the Alliance. We expect all these restrictions to be lifted,” Akar stated.
Hurriyet Daily News