Concern as UK seals fighter jet deal with Turkey
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.