Relations between Turkey and the U.K. have been thriving recently thanks to the significant efforts of two leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Theresa May, the U.K.'s Ambassador to Ankara Dominick Chilcott said Thursday.
"It is also obviously in our interests for British-Turkish relations to be strong and, under the political leadership of President Erdogan and Theresa May, relations between Turkey and the United Kingdom have flourished in recent years," Chilcott said at an event organized in Ankara to celebrate the 93rd birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.
"As the international environment grows ever more challenging, good friends should stick together," he added. In 2018, the trade volume between the two countries reached almost $20 billion, and the number of British tourists visiting Turkey passed 2 million, a jump of nearly 40 percent compared to 2017.
Chilcott said the U.K.'s diversity encompasses about 300,000 Turks who have chosen to make the U.K. their home. "And it includes 3 million British Muslims, including some very prominent figures such as the mayor of London and the home secretary," he added. The British envoy also emphasized that the openness to the outside world is a crucial part of "Britain's complicated identity," and the country will continue to be an outward looking, internationally engaged country after Brexit.
Chilcott also gave an interview to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, where he said Turkey's membership in the European Union would contribute greatly to both sides. "Turkey's accession process and the membership process are stalled at the moment. It's not going anywhere, and for now, it's hard to be optimistic," he said.
Stressing that the current lack of progress had nothing to do with Turkey's culture, size or geographical position, Chilcott pointed out that Turkey was an indispensable and powerful ally of the EU but emphasized that both sides needed t
o make certain changes for the current partnerships to continue.
"In principle, there is no reason why Turkey should not become a member state. It would be a very successful state of the EU, make a big contribution and benefit hugely from EU membership," he said.
Since 1987, Turkey has been trying to obtain full EU membership. For that end, many reforms were made in Turkey's domestic policies. Despite this, it has experienced many ups and downs in recent years, as the EU has frequently accused Turkey of drifting away from European values and democracy. EU membership remains a top strategic goal for Turkey even though the accession talks, formally launched in 2004, have been stalled for years due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France. The British envoy also underlined that the EU's current contributions were only a small part of the cost Turkey already bears in the refugee crisis. "With 3.6 million Syrian refugees and half a million refugees from other countries, Turkey carries a huge burden. Everybody in the international community should be grateful for all the efforts Turkey makes," he said.
Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in 2016 to find a solution to the influx of refugees heading to the union. According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros ($6.79 billion) in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was also promised to be provided under the agreement. Despite significant developments in the control of migration traffic, the EU could not deliver on the visa commitments stated in the deal.