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uk and turkey to enhance trade links, says theresa may

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uk and turkey to enhance trade links, says theresa may

prime minister theresa may meeting with the president of turkey recep tayyip erdogan at the presidential palace in ankara, turkey.image copyrightpa

theresa may has said the uk will enhance trade relations with turkey after talks with the country's president recep tayyip erdogan.

the prime minister said turkey was one of britain's "oldest friends" but there was much that could be done to build on that relationship.

mr erdogan announced that turkey aimed to increase trade with the uk to $20bn (£16bn) a year from $15.6bn.

mrs may and mr erdogan also discussed cyprus, syria and aviation security.

the prime minister said they agreed to have a joint working group to prepare the ground for the uk's post-brexit trading relationship.

as they spoke to the media, she said: "you mentioned, mr president, the opportunities for enhancing the trade between our two countries. and we've discussed that.

"and we both want to build on our existing links. and i believe that doing so will be to the benefit of both our countries and for the prosperity of both our nations."

mrs may described the discussions as "very fruitful".

image copyrightpa
image caption prime minister theresa may lays a wreath at the tomb of mustafa kemal ataturk, the founder of the republic of turkey in ankara

both ankara and london find themselves in a position where they need friends. many fear that turkey - a key nato ally - is heading towards a more authoritarian future under president erdogan.

he is clamping down on dissent and press freedom, pushing his country further away from the prospect of eu membership and in the process drawing strong criticism from european governments.

mrs may arrives as an advocate of "global britain" - this policy a necessity following the brexit decision.

the uk has a strong security relationship with turkey - an ally in the fight against so-called islamic state (is) - and she will also be seeking preliminary understandings on bilateral trade.

but she will need to show her domestic critics that the growing emphasis on trade in britain's relationships abroad does not come at the expense of values such as human rights.

mrs may's first prime ministerial visit to turkey comes as mr erdogan is increasing pressure on opponents following the failed military coup in july 2016.

asked before the talks whether mrs may would raise human rights concerns since the coup, a number 10 spokeswoman said britain had "expressed our strong support for turkey's democracy and institutions following the coup".

nearly a month ago, 39 people were killed in an attack on a new year's eve party at a nightclub in istanbul.

is said it was behind the ault and the militant group was linked to at least two other attacks in turkey last year.

mrs may arrived in ankara from the us, where she met us president donald trump.

it comes as brexit secretary david davis predicted a "round of global trade deals" would be "fully negotiated" within 12 to 24 months, coming into force when the uk leaves the eu.

the government plans to begin the formal two-year brexit process by triggering article 50 by the end of march.