Theresa May will disucss post-Brexit trade talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Theresa May landed in Ankara for top level discussions with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim this morning.
As the Prime Minister touched down, Downing Street announced the UK and Turkey have agreed to set up a new joint working group to carry out the groundwork for a post-Brexit trade deal.
The meeting comes as tensions escalate over Turkey’s threats to tear up a migration agreement with EU member Greece because of a row over its refusal to extradite troops allegedly involved in last year's botched coup.
Mrs May is also under pressure to confront Mr Erdogan over human rights, following his crackdown on dissent in the wake of the coup, which has seen a wave of arrests, the closure of numerous media outlets and the removal of thousands of public officials – including judges, academics and teachers – from their jobs.
Amnesty International said the human rights situation has "deteriorated markedly" during the state of emergency imposed by Mr Erdogan.
The organisation's UK director Kate Allen said the visit was a "vital opportunity" for Mrs May to ask "probing questions" about allegations of excessive use of force and ill-treatment in detention.
Theresa May is greeted by the President Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara
Theresa May will spend one day in Turkey
The Prime Minister's approach is quite clear – she thinks it's important, and in the UK's national interest, to engage with Turkey on a range of issues
Number 10 source
Downing Street was unable to confirm whether human rights would be raised during the talks, though aides did not rule it out.
A Number 10 source said: "The Prime Minister's approach is quite clear – she thinks it's important, and in the UK's national interest, to engage with Turkey on a range of issues, from defence and security co-operation to capitalising on trade opportunities.
"We have already expressed our strong support for Turkey's democracy and institutions following the coup – but we have also been clear that we urge Turkey to ensure that their response is proportionate, justified and in line with international human rights obligations."
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Number 10 said Mrs May was keen to take advantage of the opportunities for increased trade with Turkey that will become available after Britain's exit from the EU.
Already, working groups have been set up with around a dozen countries around the globe to pave the way for free trade agreements, though formal negotiations cannot take place until the UK has left the EU.
The PM also wants to discuss increased security co-operation particularly in the areas of aviation security and counter-terrorism. She and Mr Erdogan are expected to agree to closer collaboration through a strategic security partnership.
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The meeting comes hours after Mrs May became the first world leader to meet with Donald Trump following his inauguration in Washington.
Mr Trump pledged “lasting support to this most special relationship” and said it was "one of the great forces in history for justice and for peace".
The sense that Mrs May had hit it off with the president on their first meeting was reinforced when the pair briefly held hands as they walked from the Oval Office to their first press conference together.