The Turkish Parliament as expected approved a presidential motion for extending the deployment of Turkish troops to Mali and the Central African Republic as part of United Nations peacekeeping missions on Wednesday. The number of troops to serve and when they will be sent are left completely to the discretion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Nordic Monitor has learned.
In the motion sent to parliament Erdoğan emphasized that in addition to supporting the UN, Turkey’s military presence in Africa is a requirement of its foreign policy.
“Our country’s military contribution to the resolution of humanitarian and political crises that pose a threat to regional stability and peace in Africa would be a natural extension of our active foreign policy in the region and on the African continent in general,” Erdoğan stated.
It is no secret that Erdoğan has been making efforts for a while now to improve relations with Africa in the military field. Turkey still maintains troops in Somalia, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic in addition to selling weapons to a number of African countries.
Turkey is looking for new markets in Africa for its defense industry, in which it has invested heavily in recent years. So far Turkey has signed bilateral agreements with Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire to cooperate in industrial production and procurement and maintenance of military and defense materiel as well as technical and logistical support, information sharing and research in the field, opening up new markets to Erdoğan’s defense conglomerates.
It was revealed in April that Morocco had signed a contract with Turkey for the acquisition of 13 Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) for MAD 626 million ($69.6 million). The agreement reportedly stipulates that Turkey will build four remote control ground stations and provide a configurable simulation system as well as a digital system for tracking and storing information.
Tunisia reportedly signed a contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries to buy three Anka-S Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) at a cost of $80 million. The deal also includes three ground control stations and the training of 52 Tunisian Air Force pilots and maintenance personnel in Turkey.
Turkey provided military support to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) as well as to the allied militias that joined forces against General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The Turkish government deployed troops to Libya and moved jihadists from Syria’s Idlib region to the country in line with a security accord signed in November 2019 by President Erdoğan and Fayez al-Sarraj, former head of the UN-recognized GNA. It was rumored that the resignation of al-Sarraj last year was due to Erdoğan’s persistent demands for Turkish businessmen close to him.
Erdoğan discussed the sale of armored vehicles manufactured by a businessman close to him and military drones produced by his son-in-law to Angola, Nigeria and Togo, the three countries on his African tour this week.
Opposition lawmakers in the Turkish parliament claimed that the latest motion allowing only the president to determine the number of troops to be sent to these countries and when contravenes the constitution. Aytunç Çıray, a deputy from the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, called the motion a reflection of the current “union of powers” in Turkey, criticizing its wording.
Another deputy, Hişyar Özsoy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, accused the Erdoğan government of insincerity, saying Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with putschist leader Colonel Assimi Goïta in the Malian capital of Bamako last year.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by UN Security Council resolution 2100 on April 25, 2013 to support political processes in that country and carry out a number of security-related tasks. MINUSCA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, was authorized by the Security Council on April 10, 2014 for the protection of civilians.
It is not known how many soldiers Turkey has serving in these two UN missions.