Turkish president in UK visit


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Indy Politics

The President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, arrives in London today as he prepares for a three-day state visit to Britain.

The Turkish head of state has a hectic schedule of ceremonial events, public engagements and political talks over the coming days as Britain forges closer links with the country.

Geographically the republic straddles both the East and West and is seen as an important ally in the fight against terrorism and the spread of Muslim extremists.

It is also a potential peace broker in the ongoing unrest in Syria, which is seen as rapidly descending into civil war.

Prime Minister David Cameron will hold talks with Mr Gul later this week.

Syria is likely to be high on the agenda as is Turkey's application for European Union membership, and trade between the two countries.

Britain has been a strong supporter of Turkey's desire to join the EU.

The country has been knocking at the EU's door for more than 40 years, but it only became an official candidate in 1999 with formal accession negotiations following six years later.

Turkey would be the first secular nation with a majority Muslim population in the EU club, but its failure to normalise relations with the republic of Cyprus has blocked progress in the accession talks.

The Queen made a state visit to the republic in May 2008, less than six months after the Prince of Wales toured the country. The two royal trips highlighted the importance of Britain's relationship with the country.

Mr Gul and his wife Hayrunisa Gul arrive at London's Heathrow airport later today and will be greeted by Viscount Hood, Lord-in-Waiting, on behalf of the Queen.

But Turkey's head of state will not be officially welcomed to Britain by the Queen until Tuesday when a ceremony of pomp and pageantry is staged.

On Horse Guard's Parade in Whitehall, Mr Gul will inspect a guard of honour before holding talks with Mr Cameron at Downing Street.

Later that evening a lavish state banquet will be hosted by the Queen in honour of her guest and his partner and both heads of state will make speeches.

Highlights of the state visit will see the President and his wife visit the London 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford, east London on Wednesday with Foreign Secretary William Hague and Lord Coe, London 2012 chairman.

That day, Turkey's head of state will meet the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at their London home, Clarence House.

In the evening the President and Mrs Gul will attend a banquet at the Guildhall hosted by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation where the Turkish statesman will give a speech.

The three-day state visit ends on Thursday when Turkey's head of state formally says goodbye to the Queen and leaves Buckingham Palace and then carries out a number of engagements at the Portsmouth naval base.