UK, Turkey sign defense deal and push for further trade ties
ANKARABritish Prime Minister Theresa May signed a defense equipment deal with Turkey on an official visit to Ankara on Jan. 28, as the two countries promised to ramp up trade partnerships ahead of Brexit.
May held three hours of talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in Ankara.
She announced the creation of a joint group to boost trade to over $20 billion ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union, while also overseeing the signing of a deal for Britain’s BAE Systems to develop a new Turkish fighter jet.
May said that after meeting Erdoğan at his palace, she was “proud” Britain had stood with Turkey’s democratically elected government during a July 15, 2016, coup.
“Now it is important that Turkey sustains that democracy by maintaining the rule of law and upholding its international human rights obligations, as the government has undertaken to do,” she said.
May stressed that Turkey was one of Britain’s “oldest friends” with relations going back over 400 years, referring to the establishment of relations between the Ottoman Empire and England under Elizabeth I.
Erdoğan said the two sides were aiming to increase annual trade from over $15 billion to $20 billion.
May said Britain and Turkey had agreed to set up a working group to “prepare the ground for our post-Brexit trading relationship” after Britain leaves the bloc.
“We both want to build on our existing links and I believe that doing so will be to the benefit of both of our countries and for the prosperity of both our nations,” she said, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.
Yıldırım said the two sides would also now target a free trade deal.
Under their non-binding 100 million pound ($125 million) agreement, BAE Systems and state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will establish a partnership for the development of the TF-X fighter jet.
May said it indicated that “Britain is a great, global, trading nation and that we are open for business,” after the Brexit vote.
She added that “it marks the start of a new and deeper trading relationship with Turkey.”
BAE Systems Chief Executive Officer Ian King said the deal was the next step in deepening defense cooperation.
“It will also pave the way for a deeper defense partnership and could effectively make the U.K. Turkey’s partner of choice, positioning it as a key aerospace technology exporter to Turkey,” he said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters. “The wider program could see the U.K. win contracts to provide engines, weapons, radars and sensors.”