Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the middle of his three-day state visit to the UK with trade high up on his agenda ahead of the June elections in Turkey. The strategic partnership between two countries will be strengthened by the visit, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Mr. Erdogan has also stressed that Anglo-Turkish relations were enhanced and would grow even more after Britain leaves the European Union.
"As the governments of Turkey and the UK, we want our economic cooperation to uninterruptedly continue after the Brexit process. We want to turn this period into an opportunity to further boost our economic cooperation which is already at a very positive level, and we are determinedly taking the necessary steps to this end" the Turkish president said before flying to the UK.
Erdogan's visit to a high-profile European neighbor is meant to boost his campaign before Turkey goes to polls on June 24. Britain is also on the lookout for friends and trade partners outside the European bloc, as the departure from the union is looming and the negotiations over the customs union or other forms of partnership are at stalemate.
Pleasure to welcome Turkish President Erdogan to the 7th Tatli Dil UK — Turkey dialogue for the start of his UK tour. pic.twitter.com/uF178qKypD— Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) May 13, 2018
Ambition and Investments
Erdogan's goal is to reach $20 billion in bilateral trade volume between Turkey and the UK. In 2017, the figure was around $16.2 billion. He encouraged investments and joint projects to achieve the set target.
"The UK ranks among the countries that invest in Turkey the most by having directly invested nearly 10 billion dollars over the past 15 years."
Pointing out that TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) and British firms in defense industry are in cooperation on the national fighter aircraft project that they have designed as a fifth generation warplane, President Erdogan said: "God willing, we will put a lot more projects which have strategical importance into practice in defense industry."
During his visit Erdogan has met with business executives of large corporations, including Goldman Sachs AM, BAE Systems, HSBC and Bloomberg.
International Shifts and Opposition
Erdogan also highlighted Turkey's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling Israel "a terrorist state," which could signify increasing distance between Ankara and Washington. The US president Donald Trump said Washington "will always be a great friend of Israel," following the opening of a new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14.
President Erdoğan: "Israel is conducting state terrorism. Israel is a terrorist state. We will determinedly continue to stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters." pic.twitter.com/vtcjx5d9Hs— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) May 15, 2018
The ties between London and Ankara, it appears, are set to be strengthened. That is despite sizable opposition to Erodgan's visit in Britain, by UK politicians, human rights groups and protesters in the streets of London.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat, Sir Vince Cable, has reportedly criticized the Turkish leader as having "an unacceptable disregard for liberal, democratic values."
"May's administration appears to have substituted diplomacy for sycophancy in its pursuit of Brexit, " he said.
This week President Erdoğan of Turkey is in Britain.— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) May 14, 2018
❌Locking up journalists
❌A brutal military operation against the Kurds.
And guess what? The UK will be trying to sell him even more weapons. https://t.co/hOAekRQdV9
It is incredible that in the midst of the Turkish Election campaign HMG should invite Erdogan to UK at a time when millions of Turks say "enough is enough" and when he has imprisoned more journalists than the rest of the world. This visit will boost his re-election!— Lord John Kilclooney (@KilclooneyJohn) May 10, 2018
Hard to believe the UK is giving Pres Erdogan the honor of a state visit as he is decimating Turkey's democracy. Did Brexit-obsessed PM Theresa May notice? Will she say anything publicly during the visit so the people in Turkey see it's not an endorsement? https://t.co/f8MoSw3vBF pic.twitter.com/2WGGd1tMci— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 12, 2018
Tuesday saw crowds of pro-Kurdish and anti-Erdogan activists gather outside the Prime Minister's residence at Downing Street in protest of the Turkish president's visit in the UK and Ankara's military engagement in the Syrian crisis. Supporters of the Turkish president have also rallied central London on May 15.
The summer vote is of outmost importance to the Turkish president.
Boosting his reputation by mingling with British politicians and businessmen ahead of the election could see Erdogan realize his ambitions, even if it comes at cost of temporarily letting go of the insult by Boris Johnson in 2016, when the now Foreign Secretary wrote about the Turkish leader:
"There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer.
"Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn't even stop to thankera."