British PM May to visit Turkey on Saturday

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Turkey on Saturday and meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a spokesman said on Tuesday, as the British leader seeks to prepare for post-Brexit trade deals. The visit will be May’s first to Turkey as prime minister and she is expected to fly directly to Ankara from the United States, the Downing Street spokesman said.
May is planning talks with senior Republicans in Philadelphia on Thursday and then US President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday in what will be his first meeting as president with a foreign leader.
May is making preparations for Britain to leave the European Union but has said she wants her country to be “truly global” and has started talks on possible trade deals with several countries including Turkey.
Britain and Turkey are also both part of the US-led coalition that has carried out air strikes against the IS group and other extremists in Syria since 2014, as well as being involved in peace negotiations between the Syrian regime and the armed opposition.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson visited Ankara in September, when he brushed off as “trivia” an offensive poem he wrote about Erdogan before joining the government last year.
Johnson, who is partly of Turkish ancestry, instead called for a “jumbo free trade deal” with Ankara.
He also condemned the attempted coup in Turkey in July last year as a “violent… deeply anti-democratic (and) deeply sinister” attack on democracy. He said the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen — which Ankara blames for the failed coup — “seems to me to have many aspects of a cult” and vowed to take action if necessary against affiliated groups in Britain.
Gulen, who has lived in self-exile since 1999, denies Ankara’s accusations. Turkey has launched a broad crackdown against those linked to the Gulen movement, sacking, detaining or suspending tens of thousands in the education sector, the judiciary and military. — AFP