Canada may move to lift its ban on arms exports to Turkey after the UK’s decision to do so, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, as the war in Ukraine continues and Turkey’s role in representing the NATO alliance in the region grows more prominent.
Cavusoglu made the announcement on Thursday at a press conference in the Belgian capital Brussels, where he attended the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting. He added that he spoke with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and followed up the issues discussed in the meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month.
“The UK has lifted export restrictions. We are pleased with that,” Cavusoglu said, mentioning that a primary issue that concerns the Turkish government is the procurement for the engine of the TFX National Combat Aircraft, a fighter jet project that Ankara has long been working to develop and complete.
In October 2019, the UK, Canada, and some other NATO members halted arms exports to Turkey and suspended the granting of arms export licences for weapons which may be used to target Kurdish militias in Syria, while the Turkish military was conducting operations to clear the groups from areas near its border region.
Those licences were essential to providing critical parts to Turkish defence projects, including jets and its famed armed combat drones. The issue only reminded Ankara that it was still heavily reliant on foreign components, despite efforts to strengthen its domestic arms industry.
With the UK’s lifting of the ban on arms exports and licences to Turkey, cooperation between the two is already restarting in the defence sector, with director of Turkey’s defence industry last month stating that the country’s top body has begun working with UK’s Rolls-Royce on the TF-X engine
The ongoing war in Ukraine, sparked by the Russian invasion of the country on 24 February, has drawn much of the NATO alliance to realise that Turkey – its easternmost and very prominent member – plays a key role in mediating in the conflict, as well as in providing assistance to Ukraine.
That has led fellow NATO member states such as the UK and Canada, which until only recently viewed Turkey as a liability and obstruction to the alliance, to now see Ankara as a vital member and a potential guarantor for a peace process in Ukraine.