DSEI 2019 Message of Sir Dominick Chilcott KCMG British Ambassador to Turkey

10 Eylül 2019
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You can read the message published in the DSEI’19 Special Issue of MSI Turkish Defence Review here:


A Message from the British Ambassador to Turkey

Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is a biennial international exhibition of the latest equipment and technologies for the armed forces and other security agencies.  It is the world’s largest integrated defence and security exhibition. As in previous years, leading British and Turkish defence industry representatives will attend it.  I very much hope that the event is successful and helps our respective defence industries to develop their cooperation further.

We live in difficult times and Turkey has more than its fair share of challenges around its borders.  In that context, I am pleased that, in recent years, the UK and Turkey have succeeded in building mutual trust as friends and NATO allies and that our relations have gone from strength to strength.  The strength and breadth of our defence industry relationship reflects that close strategic bilateral relationship.

Numerous long standing partnerships and joint ventures between our companies have shown the mutual success of UK and Turkish defence industry cooperation. Our industries have proved they can work together in equal partnerships and this reinforces the respect and trust between our nations. The UK’s willingness jointly to develop new capabilities with Turkey, such as the future fighter aircraft, TF-X, underlines this further.

British-Turkish defence cooperation, of course, takes place in a much wider international context. As I’ve already mentioned, Turkey is an important NATO ally, with the second largest armed forces in the Alliance. Ever since its membership in 1952, Turkey has been one of the most important contributors to Europe’s defence and security. Its role in the Cold War, on the front line of NATO with a border with our potential adversary, the Soviet Union, was immense. We must never forget the quiet determination of Turkey to stand tall against our common Cold War foe during those years of great uncertainty.

We should also remember that Turkey continues to sit at the frontline of many of the big challenges the UK and indeed Europe face. Turkey is the last stable democracy before, heading south, one confronts the horrors of the civil war in Syria and the wider instability and uncertainty in Iraq, Iran and points further east.

Just as she did during the Cold War, Turkey is playing a huge role in protecting the security of European countries against today’s threats. Our cooperation against terrorism is vitally important. That is why I was pleased that during our former Home Secretary’s visit in July this year, he was able to sign a Declaration of Intent with his Turkish counterpart on strengthening our cooperation on countering terrorism and particularly dealing with foreign fighters. We are already seeing a significant reduction in the number of UK-linked extremists reaching Iraq and Syria through Turkey – thanks to information-sharing and Turkish action to identify and disrupt travellers. The Declaration of Intent will help further strengthen this cooperation.

Turkey of course continues to face other serious threats from different groups, including the PKK.  The UK and other European countries have proscribed the PKK as a terrorist organization. For its part, Turkey is a leading member of the international alliance against Daesh.

Turkey’s generosity in providing a safe haven for the 3.6 million Syrian refugees and a further 500,000 refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is an extraordinary act of solidarity towards the people concerned. It is also of immense benefit to Europe where, as we have seen, uncontrolled mass migration all too easily unsettles public opinion and governments.

Turkey and Britain are more than just NATO allies and strong bilateral partners, important though both those are. We are also both members of the G20, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. The G20 was the most important organisation in coordinating the world’s response to the economic crisis of 2008. It retains a leading position in global economic governance. It is a validation of President Erdogan’s vision of international relations – the world is indeed much bigger than five.

The broader commercial relationship between Turkey and the UK is strong and extends well beyond our respective defence sectors.  Our bilateral trade has grown by over 50% since 2009 and is now worth over $20 billion each year.  The balance of trade is in Turkey’s favour to such an extent that the UK has become Turkey’s second biggest export market.  Britain is also the second largest net investor in Turkey.  We hope to continue to grow the volume of the overall trade between us while, at the same time, persuading Turkish businesses and consumers to buy more British goods and services!

Outside the defence sector, UK companies are engaging Turkish counterparts on satellite communications, financial services, energy, education and healthcare – to name just a few.

In addition to our current strong bilateral commercial links, we are working to promote collaboration in future between British and Turkish businesses in third markets, with a particular focus on Africa and the Middle East.  We bring complementary skills and knowledge in these two regions.  Working together should generate new opportunities for Turkish and British companies.

I often get asked about Brexit and what this means for the UK/Turkey relationship.

Our newly appointed Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made it very clear that the UK must leave the EU by 31 October. His and the government’s top priority over the coming weeks is to renegotiate a new, better deal that will maximise the opportunities for the UK. This will mean creating new partnerships with our European friends.  Of course, that also includes Turkey, where we will want to continue to develop and strengthen our close and productive relations.  But while the Prime Minister is confident that he can strike a new agreement with the EU in order to leave on the best terms, we must also prepare for the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.  Candidly speaking, this becomes quite likely if Brussels continues to refuse any further negotiations on the terms of our withdrawal.  In the remaining days before the 31 October deadline, the government’s aim will be to ensure as little disruption as possible to our national life after Brexit.

In that context, a very important aim will be to also avoid disruption to our commercial relationship with Turkey.  At the time of writing, we do not know what the terms of trade will be between us; much depends on the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU between now and 31 October.

The British and Turkish governments started to prepare the ground for our commercial life after Brexit 18 months ago.  We have established a Joint Trade Working Group, where officials are working to provide, in the short term, as much continuity as possible in our commercial activities after Brexit and, in the longer term, a way for us to grow our overall volume of trade, taking advantage of new opportunities.

All in all, I am very pleased by the commitment of the business sectors in both countries to continue to strengthen our partnership, mirroring the political commitment of the two governments.

The many British and Turkish companies that will interact at DSEI is testament to the fast-paced development of cooperation between our defence industries. I wish them – and indeed all those engaged in UK-Turkish trade – the very best of good fortune.


Sir Dominick Chilcott KCMG

British Ambassador to Turkey

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