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PM David Cameron’s speech in Turkey

PM and Prime Minister Erdoğan by The Prime Minister's Office./

Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Turkey on 26 July and held talks and dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence.

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10 UK)  I’ve come to Ankara today to establish a new partnership between Britain and Turkey. I think this is a vital strategic relationship for our country.

As Prime Minister I first visited our two largest European Union partners, then Afghanistan and North America.

Now I come to Turkey.

People ask me why Turkey and why so soon. I’ll tell you why. Because Turkey is vital for our economy. Vital for our security. And vital for our politics and diplomacy.

Let me explain.

First – our economy.

Over 400 years ago England’s first official diplomatic representative arrived in Istanbul. William Harborne came bearing gifts from Queen Elizabeth. As a nation we sought the opportunity for our merchants to trade. More than 400 years on – I follow him to Turkey at least in part for the same reason.

I ask myself this: Which European country grew at 11 per cent at the start of this year? Which country will be Europe’s second largest economy by 2050? Which country in Europe has more young people than any of the 27 countries in the EU? Which country in Europe is our number one TV manufacturer – and second only to China in the world in construction and contracting?

Tabii ki Türkiye. (‘of course – it’s Turkey’)

Everyone’s talking about the BRIC’s – the fast-growing emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Turkey is Europe’s BRIC. And yet we in Britain export more to Ireland than we export to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Turkey all combined.

No disrespect to our partners in Ireland, but we have to change that. And that’s the first reason I’m here today. And it’s why I’ve chosen to come to TOBB, right in the heart of the Turkish business community.

The second reason for coming to Turkey is security.

Turkey is a great NATO ally. And Turkey shares our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms – whether from Al Qaeda or the PKK. But perhaps more significant still is the fact that Turkey’s unique position at the meeting point of East and West gives it an unrivalled influence in helping us get to grips with some of the greatest threats to our collective security.

I ask myself this: Which country’s commitment to the international effort in Afghanistan sends a message to the world that this fight is not against Muslims – but against terrorism? Which Muslim majority country has a long-established relationship with Israel while at the same time championing the rights of the Palestinian people? Which European country could have the greatest chance of persuading Iran to change course on its nuclear policy?

Tabii ki Türkiye [of course – it’s Turkey].

Whether in Afghanistan or the Middle East, Turkey has a credibility that others in the West just can’t hope to have. So I’ve come here to make the case for Turkey to use this credibility, to go further in enhancing our security and working for peace across our world.

The third reason I’m here is political.

I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.

Do you know who said this: “Here is a country which is not European…its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people – admirable people though they are – all point in a different direction…This is a country which…cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even believes, be a full member.”

It might sound like some Europeans describing Turkey. But it was actually General de Gaulle describing the UK before vetoing our EU accession. We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change.

When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies it makes me angry that your progress towards EU Membership can be frustrated in the way it has been. My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.

So I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU Membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. This is something I feel very passionately about.

Together, I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels. To make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU and to seize the huge advances I believe we can make in our trade and our security there are three groups whose views we need to take on directly.

First, the protectionists. They see the rise of a country like Turkey as an economic threat we must defend against – not an opportunity to further our prosperity.

Second, the polarised. They see the history of the world through the prism of a clash of civilisations. They think Turkey has to choose between East and West and that choosing both is just not an option.

Third, the prejudiced. Those who wilfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies, or cultures.

All these arguments are just plain wrong.

And as a new Government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them.

So let me take on each of them in turn.

First, the protectionists.

Every generation has to make the argument for free trade all over again. And we’re no different. As we build our economic relationships, there are some who fear the growth of a country like Turkey who want to retreat and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. They just don’t get it. They seem to think that trade is some sort of zero sum game. They talk about it quite literally as if one country’s success is another country’s failure. That if our exports grow then someone else’s will shrink. That somehow if we import low cost goods from Turkey we’re failing. As if all the benefits of Turkey’s exports go to Turkey alone. When actually we benefit too from choice, competition, and low prices in our shops. The whole point about trade is that everyone can benefit from it.

So let me tell you what we’re going to do to beat the protectionists. We’re going to work harder than ever before to break down those barriers to trade that still exist to cut the global red tape, like by streamlining customs bureaucracy and to work towards completing the trade round that could add $170 billion dollars to the world economy. And we’re going to do everything we can to re-open Britain for business.

Two hundred years on from William Harborne, the first resident Turkish Ambassador arrived in London. One of his team wrote the first Turkish account of Britain. He said quite simply, British weather is disagreeable.

Well I’m not sure much has changed on that front. And I certainly can’t change the weather. But I can do a lot to change the climate for trade and investment in Britain. That’s why we’re cutting corporation tax to 24 per cent, the lowest in the G7. We’re creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20. We’re cutting the time it takes to set up a business.

We’re welcoming new business to Britain. And we are delighted that so many Turkish people are visiting, studying, and doing business so successfully in the UK. And we’re encouraging British business to be more ambitious in developing new markets – as Turkish business has done. Vodafone, Tesco and HSBC are just three of the big British investments already in Turkey. I want to see many, many more.

Today the value of our trade is over $9 billion a year. I want us to double this over the next five years. We can not let the protectionists win. The truth is that trade is the biggest wealth creator we’ve ever known. And it’s the biggest stimulus we can give our economies right now.

Second, let me turn to the next group of objectors, the polarised.

They see the history of our world as a clash of civilisations as a choice between East and West. They just don’t get the fact that Turkey can be a great unifier. Because instead of choosing between East and West, Turkey has chosen both. And it’s this opportunity to unite East and West that gives Turkey such an important role with countries in the region in helping to deliver improved security for us all.

That matters most to us in Afghanistan. Turkey provides a vital transport hub for equipment heading to Afghanistan for the fight against the Taleban. But it also has a unique influence in promoting the regional, political and economic co-operation that is so crucial to Afghanistan’s stability and security. For international forces to leave we need to know that the Afghans can take control of their own security. That means the development of the Afghan National Security Forces is vital. And I welcome Turkey’s plans to do even more military and police training.

Just as Turkey is playing a pivotal role in Afghanistan, it can also do so in the Middle East. Turkey’s relationships in the region, both with Israel and with the Arab world, are of incalculable value. No other country has the same potential to build understanding between Israel and the Arab world. I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey’s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship.

Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza can not and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.

But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

And just as we look to Turkey to play this role in the Middle East – so it’s Turkey that can help us stop Iran from getting the bomb. Let’s be frank about this. Iran is enriching uranium to 20 per cent with no industrial logic for what they are doing other than producing a bomb. If Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful why won’t Iran allow the IAEA to inspect? Why does Iran continue to seek to acquire military components? And why does Iran continue to threaten Israel with annihilation?

Even if Iran were to complete the deal proposed in their recent agreement with Turkey and Brazil, it would still retain around fifty percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. So we need Turkey’s help now in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community.

We hope that the meeting held in Istanbul between the Turkish, Brazilian and Iranian Foreign Ministers will see Iran move in the right direction.

Just as the new sanctions the EU announced yesterday are designed to persuade Iran to give the international community confidence that its nuclear programme really is peaceful, as Iran claims.

I also encourage Turkey to maintain its efforts to achieve the ambition of zero problems with all its neighbours, including Iraq. And I welcome the important work Turkey has done in recent months to improve regional co-operation in the Western Balkans. Again it’s your unique relationships and influence in the region which can play such a vital role in helping to bring about progress and reconciliation.

But all of this hinges on people breaking away from the polarised view of a false choice between East and West. With Turkey it’s not East or West it’s East and West together. And we very much welcome that combination.

Third, let me turn to the prejudiced – those who don’t differentiate between real Islam and the extremist version.

They don’t understand the values that Islam shares with other religions like Christianity and Judaism that these are all inherently peaceful religions. Nor do they understand that Turkey is a peaceful country, with a long history of religious tolerance.

I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organisation. And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none.

Likewise Turkey is a secular and democratic state. This is all the more reason to make Turkey feel welcome in Europe.

I know Turkey has already made significant reforms in just the last few years. The bans on teaching and broadcasting of Kurdish – scrapped. A new State Kurdish television station – up and running. Death penalty – scrapped. Penal code – reformed. Democratic institutions – strengthened.

These are significant changes. And they should be recognised.

In encouraging you to go further. I’m not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture. We want you to be Turkey – because it’s as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens.

But we want you to push forwards aggressively with the EU reforms you’re making. We want you to take the necessary measures to open the Competition chapter, as the next step in the accession process. Because just as countries draw great strength from the openness of their societies, so Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy.

And we want you to continue to work towards a solution in Cyprus, despite our disappointment that a huge effort six years ago was unsuccessful. We’ll support you in every way we can as you do this. Of course we won’t always agree on everything but our common objective is to convince the doubters – whether protectionist, polarised or prejudiced – that the case for Turkish membership of the EU is indisputable. Just as I already believe it is.

So this is how I see it.

The protectionists are wrong. All the countries that increase their trade with Turkey will be winners. The losers will be those that don’t.

The polarised are wrong. Turkey doesn’t have to choose between East and West.It’s precisely because it’s chosen both that it has such an opportunity to enhance security for us all.

The Prejudiced are wrong. The problem is not Islam – but the wrong assumptions the prejudiced make about Islam.

And a European Union without Turkey is not stronger but weaker, not more secure but less, not richer but poorer.

The Strategic Partnership that I am signing today with Prime Minister Erdogan sets out our ambitions for a modern partnership between Britain and Turkey. Central to it is the conviction that Turkey deserves its place at the top table of European politics. And that is what I will fight for.

To the doubters – I just ask this:

More than any other, which European country’s growth could drive growth for us all?

More than any other, which European country’s influence over security in the Middle East could help tackle the causes of terrorism and bring greater security for us all?

More than any other, which country’s accession to the EU could make a stronger EU with greater global influence for us all?

And the answer I give is simply this:

Tabii ki Türkiye [of course – it’s Turkey].

Çok Tesekkür ederim [Thank you very much]. (*)

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