The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, visited Ankara on 24 January. He discussed UK-Turkey defence cooperation with the Turkish Defence Minister and senior military officials. He visited Ataturk’s Mausoleum and gave an interview to Haber Turk. He also set out UK priorities in an article for Cumhuriyet newspaper.
Article by the UK Secretary of Defence for Cumhuriyet newspaper
Article by the UK Secretary of Defence for Cumhuriyet newspaperMy visit to Turkey this week has the aim of building stronger relations in the defence and security sphere. I want to see increased political and military engagement between the Turkish and British Armed Forces. I want to see more joint training, more officer exchange, closer cooperation on equipment procurement. We are natural strategic partners.
As British Prime Minister David Cameron said when he visited Turkey last year “Turkey is vital for our economy, vital for our security and vital for our politics and our diplomacy.”. Britain and Turkey have an enduring friendship and like the best friendships this is based on mutual interests. We share many of the same security concerns: terrorism, the Middle-East Peace Process, stability in Iraq, concerns with Iran’s nuclear programme, energy security, piracy, and success in Afghanistan. This is why the David Cameron and British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Turkey last summer so soon after the new Coalition government was formed in the UK and why the British Prime Minister signed a strategic partnership agreement with Prime Minister Erdogan. And it is why we should also pursue closer cooperation in the defence and security sphere. With all that Turkey does inside NATO and for European defence it is astonishing that it has been eight years since a British Defence Secretary has had a bilateral visit to Turkey.
Turkey has an important and strategic role in global affairs. The UK is determined that this role is properly understood by all of our partners. Turkey connects Europe and the Islamic world. It is a trading partner with a strong economy and a major player in the energy market. As a vitally important member of NATO Turkey makes a major contribution to the collective security of Europe. No organisation, especially the EU, can be serious about European defence without the full participation of Turkey.
Turkey’s military contribution to regional and global security is an example of why Turkey is such a valuable partner. Your country has deployed thousands of troops to Afghanistan and has been at the centre of seeking economic and political progress there. Turkey plays a significant part in counter piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and in Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s first ever Article 5 military operation. Turkey’s contribution to European security should be praised and viewed as an example to many of our NATO allies. It is imperative that the NATO-EU relationship evolves to recognise what Turkey has to offer. After considering all that Turkey does for the defence and security of Europe I find it frustrating that its accession process into the EU has been stalled. I fear that at times, some EU Member States are so focused on their national agendas that we have collectively failed to realise that Europe needs Turkey just as much as Turkey needs Europe.
Some believe that Turkey faces a choice between looking west towards Europe or east towards Asia. I think this is a false dichotomy. Turkey is simultaneously a European and Near-Eastern country that has cultural and economic interests that extend well into Central Asia, the Middle-East, North Africa and Western Europe. This unique attribute is one of the reasons why Turkey is an asset to Europe. Because of its history, its culture and its strategic position, Turkey has influence on some issues that others in the West cannot match.
Take the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it will be a disaster – it could destroy the hopes for peace in the Middle East and cause a nuclear arms race and further conflict through the region, impacting directly on Turkish security. We believe Turkey shares that view and we are grateful for Turkish support for international efforts to address these concerns. This includes hosting last week’s talks between the E3+3 and Iran in Istanbul. We must keep up the pressure, including through robust implementation of sanctions. I welcome Turkey’s commitment to do just that. Like all of us, Turkey has an important responsibility to ensure it is not used by Iran to help it avoid its international obligations.
On the 5th of February, 1952 the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, stood up in the British Parliament and reminded people that Turkey is an “old and trusted friend” of the United Kingdom and that was why, he said, the UK was the first NATO country to give formal approval of Turkey’s admission to the alliance. Later that month Turkey attended the Lisbon Conference as a full member of NATO beginning 59 consecutive years of what has been one of the most important contributions to Europe’s defence and security. Today, the UK-Turkish relationship has never been closer. Turkey stands at the new military, economic, energy and political crossroads of the world and it would be profoundly wrong for Europeans to turn their backs at this time. The UK will continue to be Turkey’s strongest advocates for EU membership. I will take every opportunity possible to remind my European colleagues who are sceptical about Turkey’s future inside Europe just how short-sighted they are. What a mistake of truly historic proportions it would be if, the leaders across Europe delivered future generations into a much more dangerous and destabilised continent because Turkey was excluded from something it rightly deserves—membership of the EU.