Last week, the public agenda in Turkey has been busy with three main topics.
The first topic was the ongoing “Three Brothers – 2021” joint military exercise of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.
Second topic was the statement by the Turkish Envoy in Sudan, about the diplomatic position of Turkey in the African continent.
Third was the concluded deal for the Turksat-6A satellite launch by the Elon Musk’s space industries company SpaceX.
Turkey-Azerbaijan-Pakistan joint military exercises
Joint military drills between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan started in Baku on September 12th, being the first joint exercise of these three countries.
The “Three Brothers – 2021” exercise kicked off with a solemn opening ceremony. While national anthems of the participating countries were played and their flags raised, a minute of silence was also observed to commemorate their “martyrs”.
Speaking at the ceremony, Azerbaijan’s Special Forces Commander Lieutenant General Hikmat Mirzayev said that he was pleased to see the representatives of Turkish and Pakistani Special Forces in his country.
“Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan have entered the history of mankind as close friends and brothers. At the heart of these relations are the close ties between our peoples. Evidence of this can be seen in the solidarity and support of Turkey and Pakistan to Azerbaijan from the first day of the 44-day counter-offensive operations launched by Azerbaijan against the Armenian armed forces on September 27th 2020,” Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry quoted him as saying.
He was referring to the Second Karabakh War, which began last September and ended six weeks later following a Russia-brokered truce in November 2020.
Azerbaijan liberated several cities and some 300 settlements and villages after a nearly three-decade occupation.
“Today, cooperation between our countries in all areas is at the highest level. Important measures are being taken to further strengthen and develop our relations to ensure the region’s and peoples’ securities,” Mirzayev said.
He hoped that the exercise will provide an extensive exchange of experience and views between servicemen of the three countries and will “greatly contribute” to further improvement of the professional training.
The heads of Turkish and Pakistani delegations, Lieutenant Colonel Kursat Konuk and Lieutenant Colonel Aamir Shahzad, said the existing bond of friendship between the nations and armies “would stand the test of time” in a rapidly changing global environment.
The “three brothers will grow closer” as reliable regional partners and collaborators despite international political changes, they added.
The readout said that the joint military drills will serve to “further strengthen the existing” ties between the armies, as well as provide an opportunity to discover new ways to combat terrorism.
Joint military drills continued throughout the whole week.
“In the next stage of the exercises, Special Forces Units successfully accomplished combat tasks on deployment behind imaginary enemy lines by air in different conditions in the daytime and at night in limited visibility,” a statement from the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.
Statements of the Turkish envoy in Sudan on the Turkey’s diplomatic position in Africa
Turkish Ambassador to Sudan Irfan Neziroglu stated that Turkey has a unique stance in Africa, while adding that the country’s priority is the development of the continent and it is now in Africa together with all its institutions, in a speech on last Thursday.
Neziroglu spoke during an online panel on “Humanitarian and Development Assistance Cooperation in Africa.”
Stating that Turkey already had a presence in the continent, especially in North Africa, for many centuries, Neziroglu emphasized that many attempts have been made to revive these relations in the last 25 years.
“There were others in Africa while we were gone from there, and they have come a long way,” the Turkish ambassador in Khartoum said that he wished that the general African interest in Turkey became more specific.
Emphasizing that research centers and academic studies should go from being generally Africa-centered to focus on a region and a country, he said that he looks at Africa from two dimensions.
“We have come a long way with what we have done in Africa in the last 20 years. The number of our embassies has increased from 12 to 43. The representations of Turkish Airlines and other institutions shows that we are doing important work in Africa,” he said.
Touching on what Turkey can do in Africa, the ambassador noted that the most important factor is to act together and in an organized manner.
Stating that Turkey is on solid ground in Africa, Neziroglu underlined that Ankara does not have a colonial past in the continent and it approaches every region of the continent in a humane and a just manner.
Emphasizing that the African policy should be constantly updated, Neziroglu continued as follows:
“Since 1517, we have been looking at Africa with a humanitarian and development focus. With the contribution of the state, the civil society, academia, media, business world and other stakeholders, we can carry out our African policy in a healthier way. It is our deepest desire that everyone living in Turkey has an African agenda in mind.”
Referring to the importance of communication and coordination with the humanitarian aid institutions in Khartoum, Neziroglu stressed that the areas where humanitarian aid activities will be carried out and need analysis should be done in a healthy manner. Neziroglu added that institutions should inform and guide their donors in order to carry out these analyses with a constructive approach.
Expressing that humanitarian aid should be diversified and focus on different areas, Neziroglu said:
“Food aid is an important but unsustainable type of aid, we need to shift our humanitarian aid policy from food aid to vocational-technical training or other areas. Institutions that want to carry out humanitarian aid activities in Africa should work with local, reliable, capacity-tested partners. The photos and the language used while sharing them in the media are extremely important. We would like to see the Turkish flag in these donations.”
Ambassador Neziroglu, who also shared information in the section on development aids in the panel, mentioned that emergency and food aid is not sustainable and therefore development aid is needed.
Stating that vocational courses are important in this sense, Neziroglu said: “We must implement aids that can provide people’s livelihood in some way.”
Giving examples of development aid from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) activities in Sudan for youth and women, Neziroglu stated that continuous food aid creates a profile that is dependent on expectations and aid for a long time, and emphasized that this can be reversed with development support.
Stating that Turkey’s biggest strategy is to deliver aid with a purely humanitarian perspective, without making any distinction between people, Neziroglu said that there is a need to establish an institution to coordinate foreign aid.
“We ensure that aid is diversified in different regions by working in coordination with our institutions in Khartoum, but it is beneficial to realize this through a higher structure. Data in the field should be collected in a single center and analyzes should be produced.”
Noting the competition between countries in Africa, the ambassador in Khartoum said:
“Turkey has a unique stance on the continent. As Turkey, we are with good intentions. Our priority is the development of the continent. We are now in Africa together with all our institutions.”
Adopting a one-dimensional foreign policy shaped by its relations with the West for decades, Turkey has shifted its direction to a more diversified, multidimensional and independent foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Turkey’s opening up in Africa, which dates back to the action plan adopted in 1998, took shape in 2005 when it was declared the “Year of Africa” by Ankara, and Turkey was accorded observer status by the Africa Union the same year.
In a reciprocal move, the African Union declared Turkey its strategic partner in 2008, and relations between Africa and Turkey gained momentum when the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit was held in the commercial capital Istanbul with the participation of representatives from 50 African countries that year.
In 2009, there were only 12 Turkish embassies in African countries, with five of them in North Africa. Now, there are 43. While Turkish Airlines has flights to 60 different destinations in 39 countries, the TIKA has nearly 30 coordination centers in the continent and the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) have joint business councils with more than half of Africa’s countries.
Sudan has also recently accepted a mediation offer from Turkey to solve the African country’s border disputes with Ethiopia, according to Sudanese Foreign Ministry.
“During the visit of Sudan’s head of Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to Turkey last month, he accepted an initiative from the Turkish leadership to solve the border disputes with Ethiopia,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi said at a news conference in Khartoum.
Al-Burhan paid a visit to Turkey in August and signed several economic agreements with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan stated at the time that Turkey is willing to mediate between Ethiopia and Sudan to resolve a border dispute as well as to find a peaceful resolution for the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia that has displaced tens of thousands and left millions hungry.
Turksat-6A satellite launch deal signed with Elon Musk’s SpaceX
Turkey’s first indigenous communications satellite Turksat-6A, completion expected in 2022, will be launched by the private space industries firm SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk.
After analyzing many companies’ offers and options, SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket, which is the “best option” in terms of both technical, administrative, and financial aspects, was chosen, as the Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said in a press release on Friday.
Turksat and SpaceX have signed an agreement in this regard, he added.
The minister noted the satellite’s production, integration and test phases are conducted in Space Systems Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) Center.
The project will make Turkey one of the 10 countries that can produce its own communications satellite, he underlined.
The satellite is expected to be completed in 2022, and to be launched in early 2023.
Previously, the Turksat-5A satellite was also launched by SpaceX company in January 2021.
The satellite was created through the collaboration of the Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry as well as organizations and companies such as leading defense firm ASELSAN, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and CTech, along with Turksat and the country’s top scientific body, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).
The satellite is expected to secure Turkey’s orbital rights for the next 30 years, covering a large area between Scandinavian Peninsula and Russia in the north, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the South, British Isles in the West and the Westernmost border of China in the East.
The Falcon-9 Block 5 rocket carrying the Turksat-6A satellite is expected to be launched from either the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) or the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), both in Florida, USA.
It is estimated that the project will cost about 250 million dollars.