ANKARA: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday urged Turkey to maintain the rule of law and observe its human rights obligations in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.Speaking after talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, May said she was “proud” Britain had stood with Turkey’s democratically-elected government when the coup struck. “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.
The premier is seeking a delicate balance in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, expressing keen interest in expanding trade with Turkey but also echoing European alarm over the magnitude of the crackdown since the July 15 failed coup. May said Britain and Turkey had agreed to set up a working group to boost bilateral trade. “We have agreed that we will have a joint working group to prepare the ground for our post-Brexit trading relationship,” May said. Erdogan said the two sides were targeting increasing annual trade from over $15 billion to $20 billion. May said that they had discussed the prospects for enhancing trade in the talks.
“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. Erdogan added: “We discussed what kind of joint steps we could take in the defence industry.”
The pair also discussed the battle against militants in Syria and efforts to reunify Cyprus, where both Ankara and London are guarantor powers.
The British premier said security on air transport was also a key issue.
“We are also agreed to step up our work together on aviation security with a programme of shared training and information exchange,” said May.
Ahead of May’s visit, Britain’s Trade and Investment Minister Mark Price held a series of meetings with Turkish ministers in Ankara.
Bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to more than $16 billion (14.9 billion euros) in 2015, Turkish figures show, with Britain the second most important country for exports and 11th in terms of imports.
Three months after the Brexit vote, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a colourful visit to Turkey during which he said Britain was seeking a “jumbo free trade deal” with Ankara. — AFP