Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has requested a supply of Turkish military drones.
But Erdogan also voiced his displeasure at the kingdom’s decision to conduct join air exercises with Turkey’s longstanding rival Greece, suggesting that an agreement on drones depended on Riyadh’s future conduct.
“Saudi Arabia is conducting joint exercises with Greece,” Erdogan told a press briefing. “Yet at the same time, Saudi Arabia is asking us for armed drones,” he added. “Our hope is to solve this issue calmly, without getting heated.”
Turkey has emerged as one of the world’s premier makers of armed drones, which helped ally Azerbaijan make sweeping gains in a six-week war with Armenia last year over the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Riyadh already has a technology transfer agreement with Turkey’s private Vestel company that allows Saudi Arabia to manufacture its own military drones.
But there is widespread speculation that it is also seeking military armed deliveries that could circumnavigate arms embargoes some Western countries have imposed for its military campaign in Yemen.
Erdogan has made efforts in the past few months to mend Turkey’s relations with regional rivals across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
Ties between the two deteriorated sharply when Turkey came out in support of Qatar in its 2017 dispute with Saudi Arabia and coalition of countries that included Egypt.
But Turkey said last week it had had diplomatic contacts with Egypt for the first time since 2013, as well as making several conciliatory gestures toward Riyadh.
Erdogan’s wrath was directed at the kingdom’s decision to dispatched six F-15s to Crete to join exercises with Greece planned for later this month.
Turkey and Greece have been sparring for much of the past year over eastern Mediterranean borders and energy rights, conducting rival military exercises with the allies in the region.