British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a $US125 million ($A165 million) fighter jet deal with Turkey and briefly cautioned Ankara on human rights following last year’s failed coup, in a visit squarely aimed at boosting trade between the NATO allies.
May, in Turkey on Saturday a day after meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, avoided criticising his sweeping ban on people from certain countries seeking refuge in the United States.
She visited both countries for the first time as prime minister, promoting trade deals that would strengthen her hand in talks to leave the European Union.
Speaking to reporters at the presidential palace in Ankara alongside President Tayyip Erdogan, May called Turkey one of Britain’s oldest friends and touched on human rights, a sore point for Erdogan, who accuses the West of not showing enough solidarity following a July 15 military putsch attempt.
“I’m proud that the UK stood with you on the 15 July last year in defence of democracy and 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.
More than 100,000 people have been sacked or suspended following the failed coup and some 40,000 jailed pending trial. Ankara says the measures are needed to root out supporters of the putsch.
At a joint news conference later with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, May was asked more than once about Trump’s sweeping ban on people seeking refuge in the United States. She said Washington was responsible for its own policies on refugees.
In her Turkey visit, as in the United States, it was clear her priority was on securing trade.
May said the fighter jets deal, which involves BAE Systems and TAI(Turkish Aerospace Industries) working together to develop the TF-X Turkish fighter programme, showed “Britain is a great, global, trading nation and that we are open for business”.
Yildirim said the two countries plan to sign a free-trade deal once Britain leaves the European Union, while Erdogan told reporters that he discussed steps towards defence industry cooperation with May, and that he hoped to increase annual trade with Britain to $US20 billion from $US15.6 billion now.