Alistair MACDONALD The Wall Street JournalLONDON—The U.K. and Turkey are negotiating a military pact that would see the two European powers take part in joint exercises and share expertise, a person familiar with the matter said.
The agreement underscores how the U.K., Europe's most active military, is eager to work more closely with allied militaries amid budget cuts. In October, the British government announced cuts to the military budget of 7.5% over the next four years.
An accompanying Security and Defense Strategy Review placed great emphasis on alliances and partnerships to "enhance capability."
Britain hopes to have completed its memorandum of understanding with Turkey by July, this person said. Much of the deal will hinge on joint exercises. For instance, the U.K. could train helicopter pilots in Turkey, whose hot and mountainous terrain replicates Afghanistan.
Further down the line, the two countries are looking at cooperating on equipment programs.
One "possibility" is that the Turks would help build Britain's Type 26 Frigate, a type of naval ship due to enter service in the early 2020s. Britain also wants to offer more places to train Turkish officers at its Royal College of Defence Studies and the Turks will invite British personnel to their training courses.
A spokesman for the Turkish defense ministry couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.
Turkey has one of the largest militaries in the world, with around 517,100 people across all its, mainly conscript-based, armed services, according to Jane's International Defense Review. The U.K. currently has around 178,370, ahead of expected cuts of around 17,000 jobs.
Britain has already signed a more far reaching agreement with France to form a joint expeditionary force and cooperate on developing new military technology. The country is also talking to Northern European countries, such as Norway and the Baltic states, about closer military ties.
The person familiar with the matter said such deals show how the U.K. can cooperate with European armies without going through a supranational body like the European Union.
The deal also highlights a desire by the U.K. to court Turkey. Senior Conservative party officials such as Defense Secretary Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary William Hague have long championed the country's ambition to enter the European Union.
Mr. Fox said he believes that Europe risks alienating a friendly secular Muslim country that is a key ally in Middle Eastern politics.