The Queen held a halal state banquet at Buckingham Palace for Turkish President Abdullah Gul
By Richard Palmer Royal Correspondent
THE Queen held a halal state banquet at Buckingham Palace for Turkish President Abdullah Gul tonight and promised British backing for his country’s bid to join the European Union.
She celebrated ever-closer political and economic ties between the two nations, despite concerns over allowing the predominantly Asian and Muslim country into the EU.
“We have come through a great deal together to develop what is, today, a very modern partnership,” she said. “In Europe, the British Government remains committed to working with you to secure your place in the European Union.”.
The 85-year-old monarch and 170 British and Turkish guests sat down to a completely halal state banquet of lamb from the royal estate at Windsor in the palace ballroom.
“It’s a matter of politeness that it’s halal. The President and his wife are guests of the Queen. We wouldn’t do a separate menu for them so everyone eats the same,” a palace spokeswoman said.
We have come through a great deal together to develop what is, today, a very modern partnership
Meat used at similar banquets for the King of Saudi Arabia in 2007 and the Emir of Qatar last year were also slaughtered in a traditional Islamic way to ensure they too were halal.
Guests tonight were still offered a selection of fine wines, however.
Earlier in the day, Turkey’s First Lady, Hayrunnisa Gul, caught the eye, towering over the Queen and Prince Philip in
stylish ankle boots with 6in platform heels.
They matched her dove-grey outfit and trademark Islamic headscarf.
She sought to portray herself as the elegant face of modern, moderate Islam as she and her husband began a three-day state visit to Britain.
Mrs Gul, 46, is a figure of controversy in Turkey because her decision to wear the headscarf is seen by critics as a symbol of political Islam and an attack on the country’s secularist tradition.
But she and her husband seemed relaxed as they enjoyed the hospitality at Buckingham Palace after receiving a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade.
The Queen and Prince Philip toured Turkey in March 2008, only four months after a visit by Prince Charles and Camilla, reflecting the importance attached by cross-party leaders to the relationship between the two nations.
Britain, which believes Turkey is set to become an economic powerhouse in the next few decades, supports the country’s efforts to join the European Union, despite opposition led by France, and has strengthened political and economic ties in the last four years.
Trade with Turkey increased by 26.3 per cent in the first nine months of 2011.The two countries are united in concern over human rights abuses by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad against his own people The Duchess of Cornwall pulled out of helping to host the state visit, blaming a heavy cold. “She’s losing her voice,” an aide said.
It is not clear whether she will be able to undertake official engagements on Wedesday.