Turkey and U.K., two long-term NATO and counterterrorism allies, reaffirmed their alliance after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the county last week. British Ambassador to Turkey Dominick Chilcott reaffirmed that the bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.K. will become stronger with President Erdoğan's visit on May 13-15. "Turkey-U.K. relations are indispensable," he said. Speaking at a press conference Friday, Chilcott said that the U.K. was delighted with Erdoğan's visit, his first to the country after he was elected President in 2014.
The British ambassador said that the visit was overdue somehow because Britain and Turkey have a very productive and close strategic partnership for many years. "The meetings were very productive and the U.K. government was delighted that President Erdoğan made time for his visit despite the fact that the election campaign has started in Turkey. Clearly, it was very significant. We hope this visit will bring extra momentum to our already good bilateral relations," he said.
Chilcott also emphasized the fact that both countries have been working closely as NATO allies and supporting each other's national security on terrorist threats, like DAESH and the PKK. "We have a very good dialog between the two governments on wider regional questions that affect the national security of our countries; such as the Syrian civil war, developments in Iraq and Iran, as well as in Israel and Palestine," he added.Pointing to the U.K.'s departure from the European Union, the British envoy said that Turkey and U.K. want to make sure their bilateral trade relations will not be affected by Brexit."Both parties are happy with the level of our relations. We both have a relationship with Europe that has a lot of complications. Although we are in different ends of the EU, after March 29, 2019, we will both be countries - formally great empires now nation states - on the fringes of the EU and do our best to work out the right balance in our relationship between the EU's lead and exercising our own independence," he said.
Within the framework of the meetings, the leaders of both countries have discussed many regional and international issues including Syria, Israel-Palestine, Iran and Nuclear Deal Agreement, Iraq and Russia.
"Syria dominated the discussions so did Israel-Palestine... killing nearly 60 Palestinians in Gaza which followed after the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and as you know Turkish and British government's view on this, we are not moving our embassies to Jerusalem and we think this is a mistake that Americans did," Ambassador Chilcott stated.
As of 2017, trade volume between Turkey and the U.K. was $16 billion. A significant amount of the exports to the U.K. comprised of textile and apparel products, electric and non-electric machinery, motor vehicles and parts, iron and steel products, gold and jewelry.
The British envoy also highlighted that both countries have been enjoying excellent relations in every area, particularly in consular protection, economic prosperity and security protection.
"This year 3 million British tourists will come to Turkey which will be a record... Also, we enjoy very vigorous trade volume in 2016 that stood at around $16 billion, so we are very close to achieving the $20 billion goals set by Erdoğan," he said.
The U.K. is one of the countries that send the most number of tourists to Turkey. Although there has been a slight decrease in the number compared to previous years, the U.K. is still among the top 10 tourism markets for Turkey. In 2016, 1.7 million British tourists visited Turkey, and this figure was 1.6 million in 2017. In 2018 early booking data suggests that the number of tourists coming to Turkey from the U.K. would increase significantly.
The U.K. ambassador said defense industries cooperation was another significant topic May and Erdoğan discussed.
"It's at the center of our strategic partnership. We want to build a relationship between our defense industries which reflects the strategic importance [...] The TFX fifth-generation fighter jet project as you know, there was an agreement signed between [Britain's] BAE Systems and Turkish Aerospace Industries [TAI] to collaborate on the pre-design phase of this fighter aircraft project. [The] agreement was signed in July 2017," he said, adding that the technology transfer is at the heart of the TFX project and that a lot of progress has been made.
"[...] It's time now to bring in the engine. We continue to hope that [U.K.-based engineering firm] Rolls Royce and [Turkey's] Kale Group will be chosen to be the companies that take forward the design of the new engine for the fighter jet. We are not there yet with that decision [...] We look forward to saying something in the next few weeks," he added.Also during the news briefing, a U.K. trade representative said: "The important thing is that all of the technology necessary for Turkey to become a nation, which can design, manufacture and export a fifth-generation plus fighter aircraft including a fifth-generation plus fighter jet engine, will be transferred to Turkey and that work and the expertise will then reside in Turkey."
"That would mean that Turkey will join a very exclusive club of only five countries, in terms of defense technology capability. Approximately 400 Turkish engineers will be trained in this new technology in the initial design phase," he said.
ANKARA / DAILY SABAH WITH AA
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