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Theresa May signs €117m fighter jet deal with Turkey

The British Prime Minister is seeking to boost trade with the country post-Brexit.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan
UK Prime Minister Theresa May and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: Andrew Parsons/i-Images PA Wire/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has urged Turkey to maintain the rule of law and observe its human rights obligations in the wake of a failed coup on 15 July last.

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 failed coup.

Fighter jet

Meanwhile, Britain’s BAE Systems signed a deal with Turkey’s national aerospace firm to develop a new generation of Turkish fighter jets, the British government said in a statement.

Under the deal signed in Ankara during May’s visit, BAE Systems and state-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will establish a partnership for the development of the TF-X fighter jet.

Commenting on the agreement, May said it indicated Britain is “a great, global, trading nation and that we are open for business”, after the Brexit vote saw the country seeking new partners for trade.

“It marks the start of a new and deeper trading relationship with Turkey and will potentially secure British and Turkish jobs and prosperity for decades to come,” May added.

The deal is a so-called Heads of Agreement which is non-binding and will only be obligatory once formal contracts are signed.

The initial phase is worth over £100 million (about €117 million), Downing Street said.

Trade

May also 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.”

Syria

The pair also discussed the battle against jihadists 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 also agreed to step up our work together on aviation security with a programme of shared training and information exchange,” May said.

© AFP 2017

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