Turkish, British leaders hail "Golden Age" in bilateral ties
Stressing his strong support for Turkey's accession to the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday underlined the strong ties between Britain and Turkey during his first visit to Ankara since taking office. "Relations between the two countries are enjoying a golden age," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a joint news conference, comments that were later echoed by Cameron. During his visit, Cameron signed an updated version of a strategic partnership document first implemented during Erdogan's visit to Britain in 2007. Concerns that Turkey's EU accession could unleash a wave of immigration to Europe are unfounded, said the British leader, who also criticized what he called the EU's failure to fully embrace Turkey as a possible member. "As economies grow and become more equal, the pressure of immigration flows is not so great," he said. "The Turkish economy is likely to outstrip Canada, Spain and Italy by 2025." Turkey would bring greater prosperity and political stability to the EU with its economic potential and growing influence in the Middle East, Cameron added, saying that his country would be Turkey's strongest possible advocate for EU membership, while at the same time urging Ankara to "push forward aggressively" with reforms. Countering concerns that Turkey has been redirecting its foreign policy toward the East, Cameron said Turkey has been on the right path by keeping both tracks open instead of making a choice between East and West. Noting the contrast between Turkey's and Britain's views over the latest UN sanctions against Tehran, Cameron said the two countries still share the goal of dissuading Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and have a strong enough bilateral relationship to deal with such differences of opinion. Moreover, Cameron said Turkey has a crucial diplomatic role to play on the issue, saying that the world needs Turkey's help in pressing Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program. Fast-rising Turkey also represents an ideal opportunity for British businesses, Cameron added, saying his country aims to double bilateral trade within the next five years. Criticizing Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists, Cameron said an Israeli inquiry into the May 31 incident should be swift and transparent. Cameron later also backed Turkey's demand for an international inquiry into the raid, saying a UN-led process is "right." "The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable," Cameron said. On Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory, he said, "Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp," and urged Turkey to help seek a solution.