Erdogan expected to lambast Israel on Cairo trip

Turkish PM looks to solidify status as leader of Muslim world; J'lem officials see muscle flexing in Med. aimed as much at Cyprus, as at Israel.

Erdogan 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Erdogan 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Cairo on Monday, amid expectations he will blast Israel at a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers on Tuesday as part of his efforts to be seen as the head of the Muslim world.
Erdogan’s trip to Cairo is the first leg of what the Turkish media is calling his “Arab Spring Tour” that will also take him to Tunisia and Libya.
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Despite his desire to go to Gaza, Erdogan is not expected to do so this trip because of objections from the Egyptians.
“I know my brothers in Gaza are waiting for us. I am in yearning for Gaza as well...Sooner or later, God willing, I will go to Gaza,” Erdogan said in an Al Jazeera interview broadcast on Sunday.
In an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk, Erdogan – on the first visit to Egypt by a Turkish prime minister in 15 years – again used the term “spoiled child” to describe Israel, a term he and other top Turkish officials have used repeatedly in recent weeks when talking of Israel.
“Israel has become a spoiled child... Not only does it practice state terrorism against the Palestinians, but it also started to act irresponsibly,” he was quoted as saying. “Israel does not want to admit its mistakes or that the world around it has changed.”
Turkey has said it will campaign actively for the Palestinians at the UN this month, and among the meetings Erdogan will hold in Cairo will be one with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Before going to Egypt, Erdogan fired off rhetorical broadsides against Israel, saying in an Al Jazeera interview taped last week and broadcast on Sunday night that the Mavi Marmara incident was a casus belli.
“The May 31, 2010, Mavi Marmara event, the attack that took place in international waters did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was a cause for war. However, befitting Turkey’s grandness, we decided to act with patience,” Erdogan said.
His interpretation is completely at odds with that of the UN Palmer Commission report, a commission the Turks pushed hard for, which said not only was Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza legal, but so was its interdiction of ships trying to break the blockade.
Erdogan also repeated what he said immediately after the Palmer Report was issued, that Turkey’s warships will be seen more often in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We will see Turkish ships, I mean military ships, more often in the international waters in eastern Mediterranean, especially in the exclusive economic zone [of Turkey],” Erdogan told Al Jazeera.
He said by refusing to apologize to Turkey and lift the blockade of Gaza, Israel “condemns itself to isolation.”
The Istanbul daily Sabah reported on Monday the Turkish navy was planning to dispatch three frigates to the eastern Mediterranean.
According to Today’s Zaman, the vessels will be dispatched to ensure “freedom of navigation and to confront Israeli warships if necessary.”
According to Today’s Zaman, the frigates will “provide protection to civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.”
The paper, citing the Sabah report, said that “if the Turkish warships encounter an Israeli military ship outside Israel’s 12-mile territorial waters, they will advance up to 100 meters close to the ship and disable its weapon system.”
Israeli officials have said, however, the Turkish muscle flexing in the Mediterranean is aimed at Cyprus, as much as it is at Israel. Turkey has threatened Cyprus about going ahead with plans to begin drilling for offshore gas deposits, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatening earlier this month that Ankara would show the “necessary response” if Cyprus went ahead with the plans.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago that Cyprus was planning exploratory drilling within the next two weeks, regardless of Turkey’s threats.
The Greek Foreign Ministry issued a statement a week ago, following Turkish threats against Cyprus, saying threatening statements from the Turks “and other developments in recent days raise serious concerns as to the impact of Turkey’s conduct on the stability of the eastern Mediterranean region at a very critical and sensitive time: with the events in Syria and Libya and the ongoing efforts to relaunch the peace process on the Palestinian issue. This conduct is opposed to the policy Turkey has declared: that of zero problems with its neighbors. We call on the Turkish government to conduct itself with greater responsibility and respect for international law, which it has been invoking frequently of late.”