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UK lifts all restrictions on defence exports to Turkey

Officials say Britain now allowing the export of all defence products to Turkey after lifting restrictions in December
UK and Turkey closely work on Ankara's first indigenous war jet TF-X (Handout)
The UK and Turkey are working closely together on Ankara's first indigenous war jet, the TF-X (Handout)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The United Kingdom has completely lifted all of the restrictions on the export of defence products to Turkey that were brought in following Ankara's 2019 offensive on northeast Syria, Turkey’s chief defence industry officer Ismail Demir said on Friday. 

The UK government in December announced that it had lifted a suspension of arms exports to Turkey but added that all existing and new export and trade license applications for Turkey would be assessed on a case-by-case basis against "the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria".

A senior Turkish official said that, despite the December announcement, there were defence export licences for some products that were awaiting approval by the British government and in practice the restrictions were ongoing.

"However, as of today, all of the restrictions are now lifted and no defence article license request is awaiting confirmation," the official told Middle East Eye. 

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Turkey and the UK have close defence relations due to their Nato partnership, but there is industrial cooperation as well. UK engine maker Rolls-Royce and its local partner Kale are expected to supply an engine for Ankara's first indigenous fighter jet, the TF-X.

Britain-based BAE Systems is also closely collaborating with Turkish Aerospace Industries in the development of the jet, including its stealth technology. 

The project has become extremely important for the Turkish military as Turkey was excluded from the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet programme by the US following its purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems. Now Ankara needs the TF-X project to succeed to replace its ageing and less sophisticated air fleet. 

The UK government also reportedly expressed interest in Turkish armed drones, such as Baykar's Bayraktar TB2, which has been effective against Russian weaponry in Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan, and lately Ukraine

Turkish Industry Minister Mustafa Varank told journalists last year that Ankara presented a set of options to the UK government for the supply of armed drones. 

Several sources told MEE that London was also interested in renting armed drones rather than purchasing them. 

Turkey's recent supply of TB2 drones to Kyiv, which has contributed to Ukraine's defence against the Russian invasion, encouraged European and Canadian governments to review their arms restrictions on Ankara as some of the drone's components are supplied by the West. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently threatened to block Finland and Sweden's Nato bid over arms export restrictions imposed on Turkey.

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