Turkish president & British PM discuss Syria, Iraq, Cyprus

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told British Prime Minister Theresa May that Turkey wants a "different approach" in its cooperation with US-led coalition forces in the region.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) in Ankara on January 28, 2017.

Updated Jan 29, 2017

Turkey wants a different approach in its cooperation with the US-led coalition forces in the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Addressing a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the presidential complex in Ankara, Erdogan said: "[May’s visit] is very important for Turkey and the UK in terms of Syria and Iraq."

“We want to have a different approach towards the cooperation between coalition forces and Turkey."

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in late August 2016 in northern Syria to tighten its border security, eliminate the terror threat along its borders, and support opposition forces in the region.

The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces fight both Daesh and the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the PYD, which the US considers a "reliable partner." This difference in views has been a tension between Turkey and the US.

Since the UK announced its decision in a referendum in 2016 to part ways with the EU, critics have warned the US-led coalition forces fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq may be adversely affected by this change.

May, who is on her first official visit to Turkey as prime minister, also discussed the recently-held Astana talks as well as the upcoming Geneva talks at the end of February, both of which aim to find a political solution in Syria.

The Astana talks were brokered by Turkey, Russia and Iran, whereas the Geneva talks will take place under the auspices of the UN.

The British prime minister said Turkey and the UK were trying to create conditions for "peace" as well as continue their fight against Daesh in Syria.

TRT World's Alican Ayanlar reports from Ankara.

Cyprus discussed

Erdogan said he discussed the issue of Cyprus with May.

Three days of high-level talks in Geneva took place on Cyprus earlier this month under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the UK.

"We also discussed what kind of steps we could take for Cyprus," the president said.

May said the UK and Turkey were committed to play their parts "for an early settlement."

On January 11, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots exchanged maps on proposed territorial boundaries and the documents were sealed in a UN vault. Talks between the two sides continue under UN auspices in Lefkosa.

The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup on the island was followed by the peace operation of Turkey as a guarantor power.

Call to boost trade ties

Underlining that they not only discussed strategic partnership but also economic and military cooperation during the meeting, Erdogan said Turkey and the UK, as two NATO allies, should further engage in areas such as the defence industry and energy.

"Turkey aims to increase at the first stage its trade volume annually from $15.6 billion to $20 billion with the UK," he said.

"We'll be pleased to see the UK's investments in Turkey from now on. We welcome the determination [of UK] on this."

In the defence sector, the two countries signed a deal worth more than $125 million on Saturday to develop Turkish fighter jets.

May hailed the deal, which involves BAE Systems and TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries) working together to develop the TF-X Turkish fighter program, saying it showed "that Britain is a great, global, trading nation and that we are open for business."

The deal was in line with media reports that May's visit aimed to find new trade deals following Britain's decision to withdraw from the EU.

May added her country and Turkey will form a joint working group to prepare the ground for the post-Brexit trading relationship.

She also said that both countries had agreed to step up the work together on aviation security with a "program of shared training and information exchange."

May also described Turkey as one of the oldest allies of the UK, and said she was proud her country stood by Turkey after the defeated July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies