Drone diplomacy: Canada, Turkey revive frozen talks

Ottawa (Caasimada Online) – Amid diplomatic relations marked by a tumultuous past, Turkey and Canada are set for a potential thaw.

Following Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s bid to join NATO, Canada has resumed negotiations with Turkey over lifting restrictions on exporting drone parts, a reliable source privy to the details revealed.

This development is viewed as one of many concessions Turkey made in return for giving its blessing to Sweden’s NATO membership.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s endorsement surprised domestic allies who backed his initial insistence on Sweden tackling groups Ankara deems as terrorists before supporting its NATO aspirations.

This significant shift in Turkey’s stance was announced ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Vilnius.

Almost in tandem with Erdogan’s announcement, the United States indicated its intention to proceed with transferring F-16 fighter jets, affirming it would do so in consultation with Congress.

This gesture from Washington reflects a warming relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, potentially fostering increased cooperation within NATO.

Canada’s conditional agreement

According to the source, Canada consented to revisit the issue of lifting export controls on drone components, including optical equipment, which has been in a state of frozen negotiation since Turkey initially resisted NATO membership bids by Sweden and Finland.

This agreement from Canada came with the caveat that Turkey would endorse Sweden’s bid at the Vilnius summit.

Previously in 2020, Canada had suspended the export of certain drone technology to Turkey after it was used by Azerbaijan’s forces against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Justin Trudeau’s office underscored that these export controls “imposed for important reasons” still persist.

During the Vilnius summit, Canada outlined the rules for using any exported technologies to Turkey and is waiting for a response.

The talks regarding export controls are no longer stagnant, a development that likely played a role in solidifying Erdogan’s commitment to Sweden’s NATO bid.

When questioned about the ongoing discussions to alleviate export restrictions, a Turkish defense ministry official denounced the imposition of export restrictions between NATO allies as unacceptable, noting that progress was made during the Vilnius Summit.

Erdogan’s Leverage

President Erdogan is clear about his expectations from NATO allies. In an interview with Turkish media, Erdogan emphasized his anticipation for all NATO partners to lift sanctions and restrictions on Turkey’s defense industry.

After a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Erdogan expressed hope about the potential sale of the F-16 fighter jets.

In October 2021, Turkey requested $20 billion worth of F-16 fighters and around 80 modernization kits for existing aircraft.

While Erdogan has garnered some concessions, a European diplomat observed that he may have maximized the benefits he can extract by stalling Sweden’s NATO membership.

Erdogan’s leverage in international diplomacy plays a significant role in shaping Turkey’s relations with NATO allies.