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Morocco to acquire Turkey's Bayraktar drones

A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces is seen on the Moroccan side of border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on 25 November 2020, after the intervention of Moroccan army in the area. [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]
A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the Western Sahara, on 25 November 2020, [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Morocco's Royal Armed Forces (FAR) have signed a contract worth $70 million (626 Moroccan dirhams), to purchase 13 Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 combat drones.

The deal also includes four remote control ground stations, a configurable simulation system for operating the drones, and a digital system for tracking and storing information, according to a post by the FAR's Facebook page on Friday. Logistical and technical support are also part of the agreement.

According to the post, the drones are scheduled for delivery this year and form part of the kingdom's growing aspirations to become a "regional and continental power". In 2017 Rabat established a five-year plan to attain "regional supremacy" through modernising its armed forces.

Turkey's TRT World reported that demand for Turkish drones has been on the increase since they "proved themselves capable in combat operations in Syria, Northern Iraq, Libya and most recently in Azerbaijan, where they could decisively change the battlefield outcome in favour of Baku."

READ: Israel, Morocco sign deals to bolster bilateral ties

Last year the US approved the sale of four MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones to Morocco following its restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for Washington's recognition of Rabat's claim of sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco also reportedly received three Israeli Heron reconnaissance drones via France earlier that year before normalisation.

There is speculation that the drones will be used extensively in the disputed desert territory following Morocco's reported drone use to kill a senior Polisario Front member last week. However, on Sunday, FAR disputed claims that the deal with Turkey is related to the situation in "Moroccan Sahara", adding that they are intend to provide Rabat "the deterrent capabilities to defend the borders and interests of the Kingdom" in relation to its strategic location.

FAR also mentioned that the Moroccan-Turkish talks over the drones began in 2019,"more than a year before the liberation of Guerguerat".

READ: Morocco FM reiterates call on Algeria to join dialogue on Sahara region

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