DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have found themselves at odds over recent years, are indicating a rapprochement is underway as a result of negotiations over major defense projects.
Following the Arab Spring — pro-democratic protests and uprisings across the region that started in 2011 — the two countries differed on several geopolitical issues. For instance, during the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis, when the UAE decided to cut political and economic ties with the Gulf nation, Turkey opted to support Doha.
However, in the last year they have focused on strengthening bilateral ties through agreements in the defense and technology sectors, among others. In October, the chairman of the Emirati-owned defense company Edge Group visited Turkey to meet with some of the country’s major defense stakeholders.
“The Turkish market has done a great job in recent years at establishing a good ecosystem of defense players, similar to what the UAE has achieved and continues to work towards,” Faisal Al Bannai, chairman of the board of directors at Edge, told Defense News in an interview at the Dubai Airshow this week.
The executive said the company is banking on cooperation rather than competition with some of the biggest players in Turkish defense, with the aim of exploring acquisition and joint development programs focused on drones, missiles and subsystems.
“I don’t see the world as black and white; it is big enough for us all [defense companies] to exist in it. Sure, we can compete in some areas — that’s fine and normal — but there are also instances where it is better and more logical to cooperate,” Al Bannai said.
As an example, he cited the UAE’s purchase of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, without disclosing the exact quantity.
“We are also in discussions, for instance, with Baykar to integrate our missiles on some of their drones and to possibly acquire the TB3 model eventually,” Al Bannai said, referring to the TB2 and TB3 drone manufacturer.
This deal could be similar to the one Edge has with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which announced on Nov. 13 it agreed to integrate Edge-made precision-guided munitions and guided glide weapons onto the MQ-9B SkyGuardian drone.
Haluk Bayraktar, who leads Baykar, also confirmed ongoing talks over the firm’s platforms.
The TB3, the naval variant of the TB2, took its first flight late last month, according to the manufacturer.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.