Turkey elections: Kilicdaroglu says he will back Bayraktar TB2 maker
Kilicdaroglu backtracked from his earlier comments that suggested he would be inclined to support a larger state control in the defence industry, which angered Turkish defence firm Baykar, the producer of TB2 Bayraktar drones.
"Why should we terminate the drone [industry]?" Kilicdaroglu said during a rally in the city of Usak. "Was the indigenous defence sector kickstarted with [this government]? The defence industry is a national issue, not a party issue... The stronger Turkey is in the defence industry, the more it sits at the table, the more it becomes a state that demonstrates its strength."
Kilicdaroglu then said that he visited Baykar’s factory long before its chairman Selcuk Bayraktar married Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter.
"I say very clearly, the defence industry is a national issue, and a national issue is not the subject of daily politics," he said.
"Whatever your point of view, you have to support the defence industry. But you will make the support sincere. You will not give the Tank Pallet Factory to the Qatari army by saying that you support it."
Erdogan is partly running an election campaign based on defence industry products, such as the TCG Anadolu light aircraft carrier, touted the world first's drone carrier, and locally designed aircraft.
Last week, Kilicdaroglu said that no state can solely trust the private sector to run its defence industry, adding that a drone company could sell its business to a foreigner entity and leave the country.
His statements last week did not go down well with the private Turkish drone magnate Baykar.
Baykar has made a name for itself worldwide in recent years through its battle-proven armed drones, including the Bayraktar TB2.
It has made $1.2bn worth of exports, including to Nato countries. The company is currently developing an unmanned fighter jet called Kizilelma.
Haluk Bayraktar, the general manager of Baykar, reacted negatively to the suggestion that they may sell up and leave Turkey, insisting that would never happen.
This is not the first time Baykar found itself in a dispute with Kilicdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Selcuk Bayraktar said last year that a change in government could block ongoing Baykar projects.
In response, Kilicdaroglu made a gesture by visiting a Baykar-hosted Teknofest event, where Ankara’s defence industry achievements were showcased.