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Erdogan in Kyiv: free trade deal, Bayraktar production agreement, offers to mediate Russia talks

Ukrainian and Turkish presidents Zelensky and Erdogan meet in Kyiv on 3 February.
Ukrainian and Turkish presidents Zelensky and Erdogan meet in Kyiv on 3 February. Photo: president.gov.ua
Edited by: Alya Shandra
On 3 February, President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Ukraine to meet with his vis-a-vis Volodymyr Zelensky. They clinched a free trade deal and an agreement to expand the production of Bayraktar drones. Erdogan is the latest NATO leader to pay a call to Ukraine after the high officials of the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK in a diplomatic effort amid rising tensions with Russia.

Free-trade deal clinched

Ankara and Kyiv signed a number of agreements during the meeting of the two presidents. Among them is a free trade deal that is bound to increase the Türkiye-Ukraine annual commerce from $7 billion to $10 billion in a five-year time. The document had been worked out for more than ten years.

The deal was decided upon back in 2010. But the parties could not agree on the tariffs to be applied to each group of goods. As an example, Türkiye viewed the import of Ukrainian tomatoes and wheat as a threat to its domestic market. But the Ukrainian side considered Turkish domestic economy regulations too strict for free competition.

In April 2021, when Zelensky visited Ankara, he discussed with Erdogan the perspectives of the free-trade deal. This is when the parties agreed to find a compromise, which today we see embodied in the new agreement.

Ukraine and Turkey in “final stage” of Free Trade Agreement negotiations – Turkish ambassador

Cooperation agreement for Bayraktar drones production

Another success achieved within Erdogan’s visit to Kyiv is the framework agreement on cooperation in the realm of high tech, aviation, and space areas. Under this deal, the private Turkish defense corporation Baykar Defense will create a subsidiary to build a company producing Bayraktar drones as well as service and modernization centers for these drones.

As Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said, according to a decision of the Turkish company, the next drone generation will use Ukrainian engines from Motor Sich company.

“We paid particular attention to cooperation in aviation and defense industries. This is one of the engines of our strategic partnership. Our goal is to implement concrete projects for joint ventures, exchange of experience, exchange of technologies. An agreement signed today will increase the production of unmanned aerial vehicles,commented Zelensky.

According to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun, military cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv does not intend to target Russia and won’t be disrupted in order to please it.

He also mentioned that this decision is not a response to Russia’s aggression:

“For Ukraine, unmanned aerial vehicles and the Turkish partnership are vital to protecting its territory from Russia. Türkiye, on the other hand, sees the possibility of joint production of space rockets and the transfer of engines of similar technology, which is a key destination for Türkiye’s defense industry.”

The parties made a decision to build a company producing Bayraktar drones (employed by the Ukrainian army) in November 2021. On 26 October, the Armed Forces of Ukraine used these drones in the Joint Forces Operation zone in response to Russian hybrid forces’ fire.

Echoes of Nagorny Karabakh. Why Germany is worried about Ukraine’s drones in the Donbas war

Erdogan offers mediation in conflict with Russia

Türkiye is “prepared to undertake its part in order to end the crisis between two friendly nations that are its neighbors in the Black Sea,” Erdogan said. He also mentioned he would be “happy to host a summit at the level of leaders in Türkiye or talks at the technical level.”

Türkiye has a complicated yet close relationship with Russia. As a NATO member that buys weapons from Moscow, Erdogan faces difficulty maintaining friendly relations with Putin while supporting Ukraine in the conflict. Erdogan’s decision to sell Bayraktar TB2 drones to the Ukrainian army was criticized in the Kremlin. In particular, Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, complained that Ankara was encouraging militarist tendencies.

Edited by: Alya Shandra
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