I signed a defence industrial co-operation memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Ministry of National Defence during the state visit of President Gül. The memorandum provides for a committee to be formed, to meet at least annually, and to be staffed by the Ministry of Defence, the UK Trade and Industry Defence and Security Organisation, and the Turkish Ministry of National Defence. It also establishes a framework for the potential acquisition of common defence equipment, for scientific and technical co-operation to meet the needs of both our armed forces, and for the development of joint projects.
Is that memorandum simply part of a wider recognition by the Government of the increasingly pivotal role that Turkey is gaining for itself in world affairs?
Turkey is indeed an important ally of the United Kingdom. Like us, it is an important member of NATO, and given that its economy is growing at five times the average rate of the eurozone, it is also an important economic player. In the context of defence, there is a great deal that we can exchange with Turkey, and I am delighted that a number of British companies, including BAE Systems, are investing in joint ventures there.
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, who has considerable experience of foreign affairs, that we already co-operate closely with both Turkey and Israel. In this instance, however, I think that Turkey is the important country, and I am delighted that the treaty, which was also signed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the time of President Gül’s visit, will give United Kingdom forces access to training facilities in Turkey.
Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the very restrained and at the same time statesmanlike way in which the Turks have been handling the hideous problem on their borders that has been created by the barbaric behaviour of the Syrian Government?
Indeed. My hon. Friend has drawn our attention to a serious matter of concern to all of us in the House, and indeed to the wider community—what is taking place in Syria. The Turks are clearly important and concerned players because they share a border with Syria, and we are watching developments there with close interest.