UK parliament calls on government to take tougher stance on Turkey

A session at the UK Parliament (File photo)

A debate held in the British parliament on Thursday regarding human rights violations and the post-coup situation in Turkey has called on the UK government to take a tougher stance on Ankara.

Secured by Labour deputy Joan Ryan, the 90-minute debate was the first discussion on Turkey in four and half years and was attended by almost 20 MPs.

Opening the debate Ryan criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent Ankara visit and said she had signed an arms deal but remained silent on human rights violations.

“Business deals can never replace human rights. The government does not have Turkey’s human rights on its agenda.”

A £100 million defence contract was signed in a meeting between May and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in January.

The government’s stance was also criticised by Welsh Labour Party deputy Ann Clwyd, who claimed that the Turkish government would “eventually use the arms bought from the UK on its own people”.

“Four of my friends were exiled here. Because they were targeted by Erdogan in meetings and feared for their lives. Many academics, journalists and writers are waiting for their turn [in being targeted]”, she said.

Other mostly opposition lawmakers also slammed the Turkish government’s crackdown on media outlets, dismissal of academics and public sectors workers and attack on freedom of speech.

Conservative government MP Sir Edward Garnier emphasised that Turkey was a NATO ally and important trade partner but added, “this cannot be an excuse for suppressing the opposition and failing rule of law”.

Responding to the criticisms on behalf of the government, Parliament Foreign Relations Committee Deputy Secretary and MP, Tobias Ellwood, reiterated that Turkey was an important ally and that the government had told Ankara that they needed to uphold the rule of law and human rights.

Closing the debate, Joan Ryan, blasted the government’s response as a “disappointment” adding, “in the future the government may regret not being more critical. Then it may be too late when we raise our voices on Turkey.”