LONDON: An alliance between Ankara and Addis Ababa is fueling concerns over the use of Turkish drones in the escalation of Ethiopia’s civil war.
The military cooperation agreement was signed in August by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The terms of the deal have not yet been made public, but Reuters reported in October that Ethiopia had requested Turkish drones Bayraktar TB2, considered to be among the most efficient such munitions in the world.
The conflict in Ethiopia has recently entered a new phase after starting more than a year ago, when government forces recaptured the Tigrayan capital Mekelle from Tigrayan separatists.
Government troops were then expelled from Mekelle and a Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front offensive was launched across state borders, targeting Amhara and Afar provinces.
Recently, the TPLF announced that its new stated goal is to capture the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
A UN report released on Wednesday concluded that all parties to the conflict had committed abuses, including war crimes.
The UN has also sounded the alarm on the humanitarian situation in Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia, saying only 10 percent of aid intended for the province has been delivered.
While neither Anakara nor Addis Ababa have publicly commented on the deal, last month Ethiopian journalist Martin Plaut reportedly received a fragment of a Turkish-made guided bomb used against Tigrayan forces.
It cannot be conclusively determined where it was fired from, but Western experts have said the missile the fragment came from could be used by Turkish drones, The Guardian reported.
Alex de Waal, director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, told the newspaper: “The fighting is already of an intense scale and ferocity, with perhaps 100,000 soldiers already dead on the Ethiopian side. Five million civilians are in need of food aid as a result of the conflict, yet Addis continues to buy drones and other weapons.
Turkish drones themselves are expected to increase the ferocity of the fighting in Ethiopia and could destabilize other parts of Africa, experts said.
“What we are seeing are the consequences of the international community’s refusal to deal with the proliferation of drones,” Chris Coles, of the British NGO Drone Wars, told the Guardian.
“Drones are fueling conflicts in the region because unmanned munitions lower the threshold for war. A country can be condemned for providing boots on the ground to intervene in a conflict, but there are far fewer complaints if it provides drones instead.
Global demand for Turkish drones has increased worldwide after their decisive use by Azerbaijan last year in its short-lived war with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
They are made by Baykar Makina, whose CTO Selcuk Bayraktar is married to Erdogan’s youngest daughter.