Turkey sees 59 pct decrease in arms imports over five years - report

Turkey’s arms imports fell by 59 percent over the last five years, mainly due to the U.S. decision to halt the deliveries of F-35 fighter jets to the country after Turkey acquired the Russian S-400 defence systems, according to a new report by a leading Swedish defence think-tank.

The United States excluded Turkey from an international consortium to build the F-35s in July 2019, after it received the first batch of Russian S-400 air defence missiles, citing their incompatibility with NATO systems.

An increase in its weapons production is another factor contributing to the lowering of Turkey's dependency on imports between 2016-2020, according to the report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Turkey has seen a dramatic expansion in its defence industry in recent years, with a shift from arms procurement to arms manufacture and sales. Domestic production now reportedly accounts for around 50 percent of Turkey’s defence sector, compared to 20 percent in 2003. 

There were 62 defence projects in Turkey in 2002, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power. In 2018, this number rose to 667. Official data for 2019 and 2020 isn’t available yet, but there are some 150 projects that started recently.

The Middle East has registered the biggest import of arms between 2016 and 2020, the report found, while the United States remains the world's largest arms supplier.

The report also pointed out that Egypt, which is involved in disputes with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, has increased arms imports by 136 percent between 2011–2015 and 2016–2020, with the country investing heavily in its naval forces.

Egypt and Turkey have become estranged since a military coup in Egypt in 2013 brought President Abdel Fattah Sisi to power and he began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The issue of the disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean is one of many problems plaguing relations between the countries, but Ankara in recent weeks has signalled a desire to mend ties with Cairo.

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