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Turkey

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 19th December 2011.

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Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood 2:30 pm, 19th December 2011

What arrangements were included in the recent memorandum of understanding with Turkey.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

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.

Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood

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?

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

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.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham

Does the Minister agree that Turkey and Israel are the only two functioning democracies in the region—and will he therefore increase contact and co-operation with the military in both those countries, particularly with a view to containing, or indeed confronting, an Iranian nuclear bomb threat?

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

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.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Conservative, Canterbury

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?

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

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.