Erdogan in Britain for talks with 'valuable' ally

Erdogan in Britain for talks with 'valuable' ally
Erdogan described the UK as 'strategic ally' as he arrived in London for talks with Teresa May.
3 min read
Erdogan has faced criticism for crackdowns on political opponents (AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Britain was a "valuable and reliable" strategic ally after he arrived in the UK on Sunday ahead of talks with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Erdogan said he wanted to boost trade and security ties between London and Ankara, with Britain preparing to leave the European Union in March next year.

The three-day visit will see him spell out Turkey's foreign policy strategy in a keynote speech on Monday before meeting May on Tuesday.

After arriving, Ergodan spoke Sunday at the annual Tatlidil Turkish-British forum, where he said he wanted to combine the UK's financial power with Turkey's operational resources.

"I see the strategic partnership between Turkey and the UK as a necessity, rather than a simple choice, for the interests of the two countries," he said, in a speech broadcast by Turkey's state-run TRT television.

"The cooperation we have with the UK is well beyond any mechanism that we established with other partners."

"The UK is a strategic ally that we find valuable and reliable. We are ready to cooperate more with the UK in the post-Brexit in every field."

Erdogan is campaigning for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24.

He has drawn controversy for electioneering in Europe, where there are some three million Turks who are eligible to vote in Turkish elections.

The expatriate vote is generally a source of support for Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The early election is set to accelerate Turkey's transition to the new presidential system with full executive powers which critics fear will lead to one-man rule.

May is under pressure from parliamentarians and rights groups to raise civil liberties issues with Erdogan.

'Climate of fear' 

"The Turkish authorities have deliberately set about dismantling civil society, locking up human rights defenders, shutting down organisations and creating a suffocating climate of fear," said Kate Allen, Amnesty International's UK director.

The group said Erdogan's nationwide crackdown has resulted in mass arrests, a silencing of activists in the country and the near-destruction of Turkey's legal system.

May's spokesman said: "The visit is an opportunity for the UK and Turkey to demonstrate our close bilateral relationship and to have important discussions about issues of shared interest."

It is not known if Erdogan will be meeting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who in 2016 won a prize that called for rude poems about Erdogan in solidarity with a German comedian facing prosecution for doing the same.

He won the prize for a limerick about a "young fellow from Ankara" who "sowed his wild oats / With the help of a goat / But he didn't even stop to thankera."

Speaking to reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk airport before leaving for Britain, Erdogan said the economy, security, defence and the fight against terror were the priority areas in the two NATO allies' relationship.

There are growing concerns over Turkey's economic health, notably due to a wide current account deficit and fears the economy is overheating.