Con­cern as UK seals fighter jet deal with Turkey

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THE UK has signed a £100mil­lion (R1.6 bil­lion) deal to de­sign new fighter jets for Turkey, de­spite the coun­try’s pres­i­dent un­der­tak­ing a se­vere crack­down on his regime’s op­po­nents.

Theresa May said it could open the way to bil­lions of pounds worth of busi­ness, as she be­came the first for­eign leader to visit Turkey since Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan or­dered a wave of ar­rests and sack­ings in the wake of last July’s at­tempted coup.

Ques­tioned over hu­man rights con­cerns, Down­ing Street of­fi­cials said the deal to de­sign the TF-X jets was sealed in light of Turkey’s sta­tus as a Nato ally and claimed May could ap­proach hu­man rights as a “sep­a­rate” is­sue. The PM did warn the pres­i­dent it was “im­por­tant” for him to up­hold hu­man rights.

The UK is al­ready mired in con­tro­versy re­gard­ing some £3bn worth of li­cences granted to ex­port arms to Saudi Ara­bia as the King­dom em­barked on a deadly bomb­ing cam­paign in Ye­men.

The an­nounce­ment in Ankara means BAE Sys­tems and Turk­ish Aero­space In­dus­tries have signed a “heads of agree­ment”, es­tab­lish­ing a part­ner­ship for the de­vel­op­ment of the Turk­ish Fighter Pro­gramme or TF-X.

Down­ing Street sources said the con­tract has the po­ten­tial to fa­cil­i­tate multi­bil­lion pound con­tracts be­tween the UK and Turk­ish firms over the project’s 20-year life­time.

May said: “It marks the start of a new and deeper trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with Turkey and will po­ten­tially se­cure Bri­tish and Turk­ish jobs and pros­per­ity for decades.”

The failed coup last year saw Er­do­gan en­force a state of emer­gency, or­der a wave of ar­rests, close nu­mer­ous me­dia out­lets and re­move thou­sands of pub­lic of­fi­cials – in­clud­ing judges, teach­ers and univer­sity aca­demics – from their jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try has “de­te­ri­o­rated markedly” since the coup, in­clud­ing cases of ex­ces­sive use of force by po­lice and ill treat­ment in de­ten­tion. May’s visit was a “vi­tal op­por­tu­nity” to raise con­cerns with the coun­try’s in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful leader, it said.

Theresa May

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