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Ripple effects of drone sales force Turkey to move Ethiopian embassy

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Turkey has moved its Ethiopian embassy to Kenya amid growing threats over the role of Turkish drones in clashes between the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebels, proving warnings about potential impacts of Ankara selling drones to countries foreigners without imposing restrictions.

The move was first reported by veteran diplomatic correspondent Barcin Yinanc. While the Turkish government remains silent, a diplomatic source, speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, confirmed the decision.

Threats against the embassy escalated in November, another source close to the government told Al-Monitor. The Turkish Foreign Ministry decided to move embassy activities to neighboring Kenya in mid-December after advanced weapons were found 200 meters from the embassy compound, the source added.

Ankara’s role in the clashes between the Ethiopian government and separatist Tigray rebels in the north has become controversial both in Ethiopia and in the international community after Turkey sold Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has obtained six of the 13 TB2 drones he had bought Turkey as part of a military cooperation agreement signed between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Turkish drones were reportedly used by government forces to repel Tigray rebels from northern Afar and Amhara regions. Tigrayans took to social media, calling on Ankara to stop the sale.

As anger among ethnic Tigrayans grew, Istanbul hosted the Turkey-Africa partnership summit from December 16-18, with Erdogan seeking to sell more combat drones to the continent, ignoring the backlash.

Erdogan points to the success of Turkish drones – manufactured by Baykar, a company owned by the family of Erdogan’s son-in-law, Selcuk Bayraktar – at every opportunity in a bid to disperse the dark clouds over the country’s gripping economic woes.

Even in Africa they were asking for drones and armed drones everywhere I went, there vaunted in October during a visit to Baykar, the maker of the Bayraktar. Erdogan’s remarks came just after his Africa tour of Angola, Togo and Nigeria during which the commercialization of drones was the main item on the agenda.

During a return visit in July, Angolan President Joao Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço Express his country’s desire to acquire Turkish combat drones and armored military vehicles. In November, Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum and Erdogan discussed the purchase of arms by African nations to fight extremist jihadist groups.

Having signed military cooperation agreements with 25 African countries, Turkey has so far sold military equipment to Burkina Faso, Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Rwanda and Uganda. Morocco received the first batch of 12 Turkish drones in September under a deal struck in May 2021.

Several factors have fueled the appetite for Turkish combat drones: their success in the Nagorno-Karabakh, Libyan and Syrian conflicts; relatively cheaper prices compared to their competitors; the absence of preconditions or human rights restrictions limiting their use; and the absence of delays such as parliamentary approval.

While some hail Ankara’s growing military sales, experts, including a growing number of pro-government voices, warn that militarizing ties with African countries could complicate Ankara’s relationship with the continent, dragging Turkey into internal conflicts.

The Turkish government has simply dismissed such warnings, saying that sales of military equipment from European countries to the mainland attract little such criticism.

Yet Ankara can hardly avoid criticism, as sales of Turkish drones to Ethiopia have become particularly problematic at a time when international organizations are sounding the alarm over rising civilian casualties from government airstrikes.

“At least 108 civilians have reportedly been killed and 75 others injured since the start of the year as a result of airstrikes allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian Air Force,” said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the human rights office. UN man, OHCHR, at a news conference in Geneva January 14. Although the Ethiopian government does not officially confirm that the strikes were carried out by its forces, the Tigray rebels have no d ‘aviation.

More recently, on January 8, an airstrike on a refugee camp in the Tigray region killed 56 people, including children and aid workers, injuring 30 people and sparking international outrage. On January 5, an Ethiopian Air Force airstrike hit a refugee camp in the town of Mai Tsebri in southern Tigray, killing three Eritrean refugees, including two children.

The conflict has also landed on the Biden administration’s radar. In a phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed, President Joe Biden expressed his airstrike concerns.

In addition to civilian casualties and widespread human rights violations, the UN also reported that more than 2 million people have been displaced during the clashes and that millions of people were at risk of starvation.

The situation prompted a rare political appeal from the Nobel Peace Prize committee. “As Prime Minister and Peace Prize laureate, Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end the conflict and help bring about peace,” the committee said in a statement. declaration early January.

Armed clashes in Ethiopia resumed in September 2020 after the government postponed general elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Defying the government’s decision, the rebels organized regional elections in the Tigray region. The central government declared these elections illegal and clashes began. The battle escalated after an attack on an Ethiopian military base in November 2020.

The conflict will have ramifications for the future of Turkey’s relations with Ethiopia and the wider region. The warring parties can always find a compromise under mounting international pressure, but Ethiopia is likely to remain a diplomatic and political minefield for Ankara.

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