Queen Elizabeth’s visit a show of strengthening Turkish-UK relations

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Queen Elizabeth’s visit a show of strengthening Turkish-UK relations
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Mayıs 14, 2008 09:33

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived on Wednesday in Ankara at the end of the second day of four-day visit to Turkey, her first in 37 years. Britain was one of the countries expending staunchest support to Turkey's EU process, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Wednesday in a joint news conference with British Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband following their meeting at the Turkish Foreign Ministry. (UPDATED)

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Queen Elizabeth was accompanied on Wednesday by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Turkey's Ambassador to Britain Yigit Alpogan during her visit to the northwest province of Bursa, where she was welcomed by the Turkish president's wife, Hayrunnisa Gul, the wife of Turkey's foreign minister, Zeynep Babacan, and Bursa Mayor Hikmet Sahin. 

The Queen’s Bursa visit began with performances from a traditional Turkish dance troop and the Mehter, an Ottoman military band, and a shopping tour of a number of silk stores in the historical Koza Han (Silk Cocoon Market).  

She later attended a luncheon hosted by the Bursa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BTSO) held in her honor, and watched a fashion show and a traditional Karagoz shadow puppet performance.

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She later visited the Yesil Mosque and Tomb, while Prince Philip visited the factory of local automobile manufacturer, TOFAS, before returning to Ankara.

On Thursday, the royal couple will fly to Istanbul where they will visit a school and the city’s Museum of Modern Art before hosting a reception aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh leave Turkey on Friday.



The visit of Queen Elizabeth II was the crowning of relations between Turkey and Britain, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in a joint news conference with his British counterpart following their meeting at the Turkish Foreign Ministry. "This visit will obviously direct and cast light on the improvement of relations in the next term," Babacan said.

Turkey-EU relations, environment and climate change, energy security, millennium development targets, the Middle East, Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, developments in Lebanon, and Pakistan were the topics discussed at the meeting, Babacan said.

Babacan said Britain was one of the countries expending the staunchest support to Turkey's EU process.

Britain is one of the main supporters of Turkey's drive to join the bloc, but EU heavyweights France and Germany are advocating "privileged partnership" for Ankara rather than full membership.

Miliband said he and Babacan agreed to launch a "special bilateral dialogue" to defeat international terrorism, such as threats by Al-Qaeda, which has targeted both countries.

"I hope our counter-terrorism relationship will both have practical measures to make our countries safer but also some of the deeper ideological and theological roots of terrorism that need to be tackled," he said.

"We want to be allies of Turkey inside the European Union, not just proponents of a better dialogue between the EU and Turkey... We commit ourselves to ensure that the accession negotiation process proceeds with full momentum," he added.

Miliband also said the project on a union for the Mediterranean was important for the EU, adding this was not an alternative to the enlargement process of the EU.

The EU has opened six chapters in Turkey's accession negotiations, which started in 2005. The bloc is expected to start talks on two more chapters, bringing the total to eight out of 35 chapters that candidates are required to complete. The EU also suspended negotiations in eight policy chapters because of Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.   



The queen underlined on Tuesday, at a banquet hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul at the presidential palace in Ankara, Britain's support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Queen Elizabeth said in her speech at the banquet that Turkey is uniquely positioned as a bridge between East and West at a crucial time for the European Union and the world in general.

"You are playing a key role in promoting peace, political stability and economic development in some of the world’s most unsettled areas," she added, referring to the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.      

Turkey is with Spain a co-sponsor of the United Nations backed project that aims to increase dialogue between Western and non-Western cultures and to address the causes of conflict between them.

"For us, Turkey is as important now as it has ever been," Queen Elizabeth added.     

Gul thanked Britain for backing Turkey's EU bid. "The United Kingdom has become one of our most loyal supporters in Turkey's march toward membership of the European Union," he said.

"This visit is an indication of strong relations between Turkey and United Kingdom, and will further strengthen our strategic partnership," he added.

Queen Elizabeth and the accompanying delegation were welcomed on Tuesday by Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydin, Ankara Governor Kemal Onal, British Ambassador to Ankara Nick Baird and Turkish Ambassador in London Yigit Alpogan at Ankara's International Esenboga Airport.

The first stop on the queen's program was the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, where she went immediately after her arrival.

"It is an honor to pay my respects to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a much beloved friend of the United Kingdom and one of the great figures of modern history," she wrote in the memorial visitor’s book at the mausoleum. After her visit to the mausoleum of Ataturk, an official welcoming ceremony was held for the queen at the presidential palace.

Queen Elizabeth's eldest son and heir, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, made a five-day cultural trip to Turkey last November.



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