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Turkish president Erdogan to visit Britain in May

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Britain in May. [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 April, 2018

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While EU nations have rushed to join Britain in condemning Russia and expelling diplomats over the attack in England on ex-spy Sergei Skripal, Turkey has been much more circumspect.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Britain in May as Ankara sticks to its position of refusing to blame Russia for an attack on an ex-Russian spy in the United Kingdom.

Relations between London and Ankara have over the last years been relatively robust, without the tensions that have plagued relations between Turkey and other European powers such as Germany.

While EU nations have rushed to join Britain in condemning Russia and expelling diplomats over the attack in England on ex-spy Sergei Skripal, Turkey has been much more circumspect. 

Erdogan "will be paying a visit to the UK in May," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told foreign reporters in Istanbul, without giving a date.

"We look forward to this visit."

The Turkish president has made relatively few bilateral visits to Europe since the failed 2016 coup although he did travel to France at the start of this year.

Kalin denied that Britain should be disappointed with Turkey's reaction to the attack on Skripal, saying "we would like to see the perpetrators of this attack brought to justice."

He reaffirmed Turkey's unwillingness to follow London and most of its EU allies by blaming Russia for the poisoning.

"There seems to be a lot of discussion still going on.

"The question of who exactly did it and what is the full story is still unfolding," Kalin said.

Britain threw out 23 Russian diplomats over the 4 March nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in an English town. 

The first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II has plunged relations between Moscow and London into crisis.

Turkey has built flourishing relations with Russia after overcoming a 2015 crisis over Syria and President Vladimir Putin paid a two day visit to Ankara last week. 

"We have good relations with Russia, we have good relations with the UK. We would not want to see any further tension between two countries with whom we have good relations," said Kalin.

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