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G5 Sahel visit to Turkey

The intention was to strengthen ties with the Eurasian country
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REUTERS/LUDOVIC MARIN  -   G5 Sahel Defence Academy logo in Nouakchott

A delegation from the G5 Sahel visited Ankara from 5 to 9 April with the aim of strengthening relations with Turkey. According to a press release issued by the G5 Sahel after the visit, the delegation discussed avenues for security cooperation and the purchase of military equipment by the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The G5 Sahel delegation was led by Executive Secretary Maman Sidikou, accompanied by Major General Oumar Deby, representative of the incumbent president, and General Oumarou Namata Gazama, commander of the Joint Force (FC-G5S). This is the first institutional visit of the G5 Sahel in Turkey. The delegation also met with the Deputy Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs and the ambassadors of the G5 Sahel countries stationed in Turkey (Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad).

During the trip, the African delegation met with Turkey's main defence companies and with the SSB (Turkish acronym for the Presidency of the Defence Industry) agency. This institution was established by the Ministry of Defence to coordinate the Turkish defence industry and the supply of military technology for the army. Previously, this entity was civilian in nature until December 2017, when it was integrated as an entity under the Presidency of the Republic. During the visit, the president of SSB, Ismail Demir, presented to the G5 Sahel delegation "the numerous assets offered by the Turkish military industry", according to the official statement. Last March 2018, Turkey announced a donation of five million dollars with the aim of helping countries combat the terrorist threat in the region. The purchase of equipment by the G5 Sahel from Turkish companies was another topic discussed at the meetings in Ankara.

Over the past six years, Turkey has strengthened its presence and relations with sub-Saharan African countries, signing bilateral military cooperation agreements with Mauritania, Gambia, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Sudan, Guinea, Nigeria, Benin and Niger. The Turkish security company SADAT has also conducted military training programmes in several countries in the region, notably in Libya, Sudan and Somalia. Due to Niger's strategic position, Turkey has consolidated a special relationship by investing in development cooperation and infrastructure. In the first half of 2019, Turkey invested $39 million, while the previous year it invested $49 million.  

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AFP/ MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB - Officials inaugurate the newly opened Turkish embassy in Mogadishu on 3 June 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has visited Somalia on the third and final leg of his East Africa tour to inaugurate Turkish-sponsored projects, including health facilities and the world's largest Turkish embassy.

Among the projects financed by the Turkish government are a hospital and a park in Niamey, as well as the complete renovation of the capital's international airport (154 million euros). Some reports suggest that this cooperation could lead to the construction of a Turkish military base in Niger, potentially making it the third country in Africa, besides Somalia and Libya, to host a Turkish base. With a land border with Libya, Niger is a key country for Turkey's interests in the region. As for the relationship with Mali, a Turkish contingent is part of the MINUSMA police force. Ankara has also signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the 'Metrobus' facility in Bamako.  

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AFP/JOHN THYS - Mauritania's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Burkina Faso's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Burkinabe Abroad, Alpha Berry, Niger's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Kalla Ankourao, Mali's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, Chad's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahamat Zene Cherif and G5 Sahel Permanent Secretary Maman Sambo Sidikou attend a G5 Sahel ministerial meeting at the EU headquarters

The G5 Sahel visit to Turkey is further proof of Turkey's successful strategy in the Sahel region. Having consolidated its presence in East Africa and the Horn, Ankara is becoming another politically, economically and militarily relevant actor in West Africa.