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US embassy move to Jerusalem a ‘mistake’: UK envoy

Dominick Chilcott confirmed the British government will not move its embassy to Jerusalem

The United Kingdom’s ambassador to Ankara on Friday described the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “a mistake”.

In a news briefing, Dominick Chilcott said: “As you may know, rather like the Turkish government, the British government’s view is we are not moving our embassy to Jerusalem. And we think it was a mistake for the Americans to have taken that step.”

Chilcott commented on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to the UK.

“There was also a very good discussion about regional foreign policy issues. As you would expect Syria featured very high in that discussion. But so did Israel-Palestine because this followed the killing of 60 Palestinians in Gaza, which followed on the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem and the opening ceremony of their embassy there,” he said.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and thousands more injured by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza-Israel fence, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Thousands of Palestinians had gathered on the Gaza Strip’s eastern border to take part in protests marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel — which Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, Arabic for “Catastrophe” — and protest the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Erdogan’s visit to UK ‘very productive’

Overall, the visit of President Erdogan to the UK was described as “very productive” by the British ambassador to Ankara.

Regarding bilateral relations between Turkey and the UK, he said: “We sometimes categorize Britain’s international engagement in three areas; the consular protection of our British nationals overseas, the promotion of economic prosperity of the UK and security protection of the country. And In each of those three areas […] Turkey is an indispensable partner for the UK.”

He praised Turkey and the UK’s cooperation in NATO as two allies and underscored: “We also cooperate very closely on the urgent threats posed by instability in this neighborhood in particular threats posed by terrorists organizations whether we are talking about PKK, Daesh or other groups.”

“And we have a very good dialogue between British and Turkish government on wider regional questions, which also affect the national security of both our countries such as the civil war in Syria, developments in Iraq, Iran, Israel and Palestine,” he added.

On a question regarding Turkey- UK cooperation on Israel-Palestine issue, he said President Erdogan and Prime Minister Theresa May had reaffirmed their well-known positions during the meetings.

“We have very similar strategic aim which is to support the work to find peace on the basis of a two-state solution, to reduce violence, to have fair deal for the Palestinians […]” he added.

‘Technology transfer is at the heart of TF-X project’

The UK ambassador said defense industries cooperation was another significant topic discussed between May and Erdogan.

“It’s at the center of our strategic partnership. We want to build a relationship between our defense industries which reflects the strategic importance […] The TF-X fifth generation fighter aircraft project as you know, there was an agreement signed between [Britain’s] BAE Systems and TAI [Turkish Aerospace Industries] to collaborate on the pre-design phase of this fighter aircraft project. [The] agreement was signed in July 2017.”

He said that the technology transfer is at the heart of TF-X project and that a lot of progress has been made.

“[…] It’s time now to bring in the engine. We continue to hope that [UK-based engineering firm] Rolls Royce and [Turkey’s] Kale Group will be chosen to be the companies that take forward the design of the new engine for the fighter jet. We are not there yet with that decision […] We look forward to saying something in the next few weeks,” he added.

Also during the news briefing, a UK trade representative said: “The important thing is that all of the technology necessary for Turkey to become a nation, which can design, manufacture and export a fifth generation plus fighter aircraft including a fifth generation plus fighter jet engine, will be transferred to Turkey and that work and the expertise will then reside in Turkey.”

“That would mean that Turkey will join a very exclusive club, in terms of defense technology capability. Of only five nations around the world that have that capability […] Approximately 400 Turkish engineers will be trained in this new technology in the initial design phase,” he said.

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