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Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina ink arms production deal

Aug. 10, 2009 at 4:35 PM   |   Comments

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Turkey's state-owned weapons producer MKEK has signed agreements with Bosnia-Herzegovina's Unis Frop defense industry corporation to pool their installed capacity and other resources for a greater share of the arms and internal security market.

A MKEK spokesman told United Press International details of the arrangement would be worked out by MKEK's superiors at the Turkish Ministry of Defense.

A memorandum of understanding specifies that Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu will work together with Unis Frop on joint production and marketing of defense industry products and projects.

Turkey has expanded its customer base in a vast range of sectors in the Caucasus and Central Asia, from Turkish comics to cars and trucks, since the opening up of that region after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

Turkey shares cultural, ethnic, racial and religious ties with former Soviet republics that emerged as nation-states after the Soviet Union's demise.

In a patchwork of fragile democracies, authoritarian closed shops and self-styled benign dictatorships stretching from Europe's edge to farthest Asia, Turkey has exercised a moderating influence and profited commercially as a result, analysts said.

MKEK is one of the oldest continuously operated state enterprises making and selling weapons in the Middle East. Its origins date back to the 15th century production of heavy guns and shells for the Ottoman Empire's artillery corps.

The Ministry of Defense-controlled MKEK network has 11 major factories in its portfolio in Turkey's Anatolia region, which includes the capital.

The factories in Kirikkale, a major steel center 50 miles east of Ankara, produce heavy weapons and ammunition. Another factory in Cankiri, 87 miles northeast of Ankara, manufactures medium-caliber weapons. MKEK factories in and around Ankara make gas masks, pyrotechnics equipment and supplies, rockets and explosives, small arms and ammunition.

Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina have had a history of military and political collaboration, but analysts said the new agreement is more likely a Turkish gesture to help restore the Balkan nation's weapons industry, which was devastated in the 1992-95 war.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was a major exporter of arms as a constituent of former Yugoslavia. Its factories supplied military equipment to more than 40 countries. During and after the conflict, production was greatly curtailed due to war damage to factories.

According to IHS Jane's, the defense intelligence group, elements of the industry have been rebuilt, and now Bosnia-Herzegovina is re-entering the international market. Its manufacturers took part in several recent arms industry shows but were absent from a major trade fair in the Gulf this year, mainly because of the global recession.

Recent restoration of war-hit production facilities has enabled Bosnia-Herzegovina to restart exports of artillery, mortars, recoilless rifles, rocket launchers and electro-optical devices in a competitive market.

A major impact of Turkey's collaboration with Bosnia-Herzegovina would be greater accessibility for Turkey in markets usually restricted to non-European countries, analysts said.

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