Dubai- Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with Turkey to buy drones from Ankara in the “biggest” military contract in Turkish history as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struggles to absorb foreign investment to revive the country’s ailing economy.
The agreement was finalized in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Tuesday, a day after Erdogan, accompanied by an entourage of some 200 businesspeople, arrived in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Persian Gulf tour.
Media reports said Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the signing ceremony for the drones deal between Turkish defense firm Baykar and the Saudi defense ministry.
Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud said in a tweet on Tuesday that Riyadh would acquire the drones “with the aim of enhancing the readiness of the kingdom’s armed forces and bolstering its defense and manufacturing capabilities.”
Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar described the drones deal as the “biggest” defense and aviation export contract in Turkey’s history.
“We signed a contract with the Saudi Arabian defense ministry for the Bayraktar Akinci (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) export and cooperation,” he said in a Twitter post.
Erdogan is touring the Persian Gulf region and his next stops include Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Erdogan’s visit comes as Turkey is facing sales and fuel tax hikes, which have been regarded as necessary to restore the country’s fiscal discipline and bring the 38-percent inflation down.
Turkey’s current account deficit reached record levels this year – $37.7bn in the first five months – and Erdogan has expressed hope that the oil and gas-rich Persian Gulf states will help plug the gap.
“This tour has two main topics: investments, and a financial dimension. We have high hopes for both,” Erdogan told a news conference at an Istanbul airport before departure.
“Turkey will have a serious investment opportunity in the defense industry, infrastructure and superstructure investments in the three countries,” he added. “In addition, these countries will have the opportunity to purchase certain assets from Turkey.”
As part of the Turkish president’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries also signed a series of deals in various fields, including investment, the defense industry, energy and communications.
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