BERLIN – Turkey’s ascent in the international drone market over the last decade is remarkable. As is its increasing usage of armed drones beyond its borders in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. According to the Guardian, Turkey has become the number two user in the world of armed drones and “… which is, like the U.S., prepared to engage in targeted killing outside its own borders.”
The largest manufacturers of Turkey’s domestically produced drones is Baykar Savunma, whose Chief Technology Officer happens to be the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Selçuk Bayraktar. Another key manufacturer is Turkish Aerospace Industries.
To build up the necessary technological expertise and technology, Turkish drone producers use foreign technology and components. The Guardian published an article in November 2019 about the important role U.K. technology has played in fueling Turkey’s rise as a global drone power, outlining how a U.K.-manufacturer based in Brighton supplied crucial missile components to Baykar during the development stage.
The U.K. is not the only country supplying drone technology to Turkey. Although Turkey has been under a Canadian arms embargo since October 2019 following Ankara’s military incursion into North and East Syria, in June 2020, Canada approved the sale of sophisticated military drone optics to Turkey, reported the Middle East Eye.
Turkey, the U.K., and Canada are all NATO members and it is not uncommon for allies to exchange military technology.
Fellow NATO member Germany, however, has begun to question the ethics of assisting Turkey in drone production. The question here is whether Turkey’s usage of military drones in Iraq, Syria, and Libya is justified. German Minister of State Niels Annen stated that his country has repeatedly made clear to Turkey that, “the protection of the civilian population and the observance of international humanitarian law are of paramount importance. It is also the basic attitude of the Federal Government that any use of weapons must take place within the framework of the relevant rules of international law.”
Andrej Hunko of Die Linke (The Left Party), a democratic socialist political party in Germany, asked questions in the Bundestag last week about whether German technology is used in the production of Turkey’s armed drones and whether the German Federal Government will take action against Turkey after a Turkish drone killed killed three Kurdish women in a village near Kobane, Syria, on 23 June. In a short response, Minister Annen wrote that international law must be observed and the civilian population must be protected at all times against the use of armed drones.
Die Grünen (The Greens) have similarly raised questions in parliament about the export of anti-tank missiles and the sale of technology production licences to Turkey. The Greens state that in light of the recent incursions in Syria in violation of international law and Turkey’s military involvement in Libya, weapon sales and licenses should be reconsidered, even if signed before Turkey’s military involvement in Syria and Libya.