Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Mr Erdoğan Comes to Town

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 14th May, 2018

Erdogan in London.jpgThe Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in London at the moment, partly, he says, to thank Britain for being a steadfast supporter in the wake of the 2016 failed coup. A possible post-Brexit trade deal also featured in his official talks, with some media reporting that Ankara hopes to extract a commitment from the Conservative government to allow free movement of people between our two countries — not exactly something most Leave voters in the EU Referendum were expecting. However, last night, at the Turken Foundation UK dinner that I attended at the Intercontinental Hotel in Mayfair, Mr Erdoğan addressed most of his remarks to the (predominantly Turkish) students in the room; the Turken Foundation provides cheap accommodation and other support for hundreds of them. He declared that his government will stand resolute against terrorists, in which category he lumped Da’esh, Al Qaida, the PKK and the Gülen movement all together — as well as promising that he will defend Muslim values. He lambasted European countries for doing so little to help Syrian refugees, of whom Turkey has taken in 3.5 million, and the West in general for allegedly tolerating racism and Islamophobia. Though Turkey as a modern state has been in existence less than a century, Mr Erdoğan claimed the legitimacy of the Ottoman Empire and its footprint in three continents, in which people of different ethnicities, faiths and languages lived side by side, in particular citing how Jews fleeing persecution in parts of Europe had been taken in. Armenians and Kurds would probably have had something to say about some of that, of course, just as elements of the Turkish media would take the President to task over recent arrests and curbs on freedom of expression. But last night was not the occasion for that. Indeed, the latter part of the President’s speech was a clear election pitch for the vote that has been brought forward to next month. In that regard, the message was clear: if you want more of the prosperity and stability that I have brought, you know whose party you should support!

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