The United States government officials have shown concern over Turkey’s sales of armed Bayraktar TB2 drones to Ethiopia, citing mounting evidence the government had used the weapons against rebel fighters.
Washington has “profound humanitarian concerns” over the sales, which could contravene U.S. restrictions on arms to Ethiopia, a senior Western official told Reuters.
Although, Turkish and Ethiopian officials have not publicly confirmed the drones sale, however, it is believed that Ankara and Ethiopia recently concluded sales negotiations, with some reports suggesting that some units have been delivered.
The Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones proved itself in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting interest from buyers globally in a market led by U.S., Chinese and Israeli manufacturers.
Egyptian officials believe that a drone sales to Ethiopia risks stoking tensions in the already strained relations between Ankara and Cairo, which is at odds with Addis Ababa over a hydropower dam on the Blue Nile.
Cairo had asked the United States and some European nations to help it freeze any deal, although, any such deal will have to be agreed in talks between Egypt and Turkey as they try to repair diplomatic ties.
The war between Ethiopia’s government and the leadership of the northern Tigray region which began last year is has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions.
A State Department spokesman said U.S. Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman “raised reports of armed drone use in Ethiopia and the attendant risk of civilian harm” during a visit to Turkey last week.
This May, U.S. State Department placed restrictions on exports of defence products for Ethiopia’s armed forces, while in September, also places sanctions on those engaged in policies that threaten stability in the area, though there has been no indication of any such imminent action against Turkey.
Sales of Turkish military hardware to Ethiopia surged to almost $95 million in the first 11 months of 2021, from virtually nothing last year, according to Exporters’ Assembly data.
In response to U.S. concerns, Turkey said it attaches humanitarian provisions to the Ethiopia deal and requires signed undertakings outlining how the drones will be deployed.