Turkish-Serbian military relations have gained further momentum through a recently signed military cooperation agreement in which both countries pledge to deepen bilateral ties in various defense fields.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Serbia to attend the second meeting of the Turkey-Serbia High Level Cooperation Council, held on October 7, 2019. Following the meeting, the parties signed a military cooperation agreement that creates a legal framework for bilateral defense cooperation.
The same day, the parties also signed two separate deals on security cooperation and joint police patrolling that allow the deployment of Turkish police on Serbian soil, where they will be able to expand an ongoing witch-hunt against critics of Turkey’s President Erdoğan.
According to the text of the military cooperation agreement, obtained by Nordic Monitor, bilateral cooperation will be applied to the exchange of military personnel, material, equipment, information and experience in the fields specified in Article 4.
In Article 4, Turkey and Serbia pledge to cooperate in the defense industry; military intelligence sharing; participation in joint exercises and training; logistics cooperation, grant and logistics systems; communications, electronics, information systems and cyber defense; peacekeeping, humanitarian aid and counter-piracy operations; and information and experience sharing on the organizational structure of the armed forces and the structure and equipment of military units.
During the presidential visit to Belgrade, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Serbian counterpart, Alexandar Vulin, initialed the military cooperation agreement, on October 7, 2019. The 18-article framework agreement was submitted to parliament for ratification on February 20, 2020 by President Erdoğan.
According to Article 4, the countries will also focus on military training and education, military medicine and health services, military legal systems, mapping and hydrography, exchange of personnel for professional development, information and experience sharing on military, scientific and technological research, and carrying out training programs on mines and improvised explosive devices.
The letter submitted to parliament seeking approval of the military cooperation deal with Serbia:Serbia military framework agreement_letter
Furthermore, the deal sets forth conditions on the handling of classified information produced under the agreement, specifying how it will be transmitted and used. Turkey and Serbia will conclude separate arrangements for the implementation of the agreement.
The terms of the agreement will be executed by the General Staff on the Turkish side and the Ministry of Defense for Serbia. The deal is valid for five years with automatic renewal for successive periods of one year. According to the agreement, either party may notify the other of the intent to terminate, but it shall be effective three months after the notification is made.
The full text of the military cooperation agreement:Turkey-Serbia military framework agreement
In a speech at the official signing ceremony, President Aleksandar Vučić revealed Serbia’s interest in purchasing certain weapons, equipment and arms from Turkey.
“Today, after the talks of our experts, I spoke for the first time with President Erdoğan about defense cooperation. I expect great progress in the framework of the agreement that was signed today and great progress in the defense sphere. Our experts expressed their interest in purchasing certain weapons, equipment and arms from Turkey, and we have concurrently expressed our wish to participate in processes of technology transfer and the establishment of joint defense industry companies, which we are not only entitled to, as two sovereign and independent countries, but there are also huge opportunities here that would be beneficial for both countries in terms of economic benefit, and I would say more importantly, in terms of raising our defense capabilities,” Vučić stated.
President Erdoğan, for his part, said the meeting with President Vučić had been “very fruitful” in terms of further developing bilateral ties.
The deal is set to open the Serbian market to Turkish defense companies controlled by President Erdoğan his family members and loyalist bussinessmen. This is in line with recent agreements and developments which confirm that Turkey’s defense sector has become a tool for Ankara to increase its influence and strengthen its presence in foreign countries.
While Erdoğan took over control of all government agencies involved in the production, development and procurement of arms and defense materiel such as military electronics producer Aselsan, military avionics manufacturer Havelsan, rocket producer Roketsan and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), he redistributed the assets of private arms manufacturers to a few companies that are close to him.
Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Selçuk Bayraktar, emerged as the chief of the Turkish defense industry. Erdoğan incorporated a firm into his family when his daughter Sümeyye married Bayraktar, the technology officer of Baykar Makina, which manufactures armed and unarmed drones for the Turkish military and law enforcement agencies. In many speeches Erdoğan has often boasted about Bayraktar-manufactured armed drones, saying they have enhanced Turkey’s defense capabilities.