Dominic Raab, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, held talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Tuesday. The meeting covered a range of issues, including growing trade between the two countries, and current regional and international developments, with Syria topping the agenda.
Following the meeting, the two ministers held a joint press conference. Mr Raab, who was making his first official visit to Turkey as Foreign Secretary, started by extending his “deepest condolences” to “the Turkish government and indeed to the Turkish people” following the “tragic deaths of more than 30 Turkish soldiers as a result of brutal regime attacks in Idlib.”
Noting that Turkey is a “staunch ally in NATO and one of its largest contributors of military personnel”, the Foreign Secretary stated that the UK supported “Turkey’s efforts to re-establish the ceasefire agreed in 2018 and to protect those innocent civilians fleeing the regime’s monstrous assault.”
He added that the British government has also been “very clear in our condemnation of the regime’s actions in Idlib”, and that they were “gravely concerned by the significant escalation in military action by Russia and the Syrian regime in the North West”, which Britain regards “as flagrant violations of international law and indeed basic human decency”.
Towards the end of his 7-minute talk, Mr Raab highlighted that counter terrorism cooperation between the two countries “remains strong”. He said, “The UK stands with Turkey in the fight against terrorism, and recognises the serious threat posed by the PKK.”
The British minister also stated that a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries would be struck during 2020, to build on the existing bi-lateral trade, which is already worth some £18 billion per year.
He stated that in the previous week, “the UK Parliament extended the proscription of the UK to acknowledge the HPG and TAK as aliases of the PKK”.
For his part, Mr Çavuşoğlu said: “Greece and the EU countries are trying to escape from their international responsibilities … We do not have an obligation to forcefully keep anyone in Turkey,” referring to the latest migrant flow from Turkey to Greece.
His remarks came after several days of clashes at the Turkish-Greek border where thousands of migrants are desperate to cross to Europe after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that his country would no longer stop the migrants from heading West.
The friendship between 🇬🇧 and 🇹🇷 was rekindled during Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s time. Today, I was honoured to visit the striking Anıtkabir mausoleum and pay my respects to Atatürk, the great leader and founder of modern Turkey pic.twitter.com/TVZmZSyeTq
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) March 3, 2020
“The latest developments in Idlib have further increased the existing migratory pressure on our country and we cannot take a new migratory flow,” the Turkish minister noted.
During his visit, Mr Raab also visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and paid tribute to the founder of modern Turkey on his Twitter account.