MERSIN, Turkey — Statements by the leaders of Turkey and Italy last week raised the possibility of the former procuring the SAMP/T air defense system — an effort that has been frozen for some time now.
“We have decided to continue our efforts to revive the triple steps we took as Turkey-France-Italy. I hope we will start this new process vigorously after the elections [in France],” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters on a flight back from Brussels. France will hold a presidential election in April.
Erdogan made it clear that the most important issue in these trilateral talks will be the SAMP/T.
“Yes, Eurosam,” he said, referring to the Franco-Italian industrial organization charged with developing the system. “We discussed this issue with [Italian Prime Minister Mario] Draghi, just as we discussed it with [French President Emmanuel] Macron. Draghi also raised this issue in his meeting with Macron after me.”
Erdoğan added that he hopes talks with the U.S. for the purchase of new F-16 jets and modernization packages will soon yield results.
Draghi also addressed the content of his meeting with Erdoğan in statements to the Italian press while in Brussels.
“One of the cooperation forums that was created in recent years, but later interrupted, was the group between Turkey, France and Italy. We have decided to revive this group and will soon hold a meeting between the three countries,” he said.
In 2017, Turkey signed a declaration of intent with Italy and France to strengthen cooperation in the joint production of air and missile defense systems. Then, in January 2018, during Erdoğan’s visit to France, a contract with Eurosam was signed for the Long-Range Air and Missile Defense Project.
LORAMIDS is Turkey’s air defense procurement program, and SAMP/T was part of this overarching effort. Turkish industry partners Aselsan and Roketsan would also perform work under on the 18-month contract.
However, efforts ceased over political disagreements. According to Turkey’s top procurement official, Ismail Demir, France in January 2020 blocked progress over Turkish operations in Syria.
The Eurosam consortium consists of European missile maker MBDA — which is a joint venture between French firm Airbus, Italian company Leonardo and British business BAE Systems — and the French company Thales, whose main shareholders are the French government and the fighter jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
Tayfun Ozberk is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News.