As Egypt burns, Erdogan still talks Gaza visit

While Erdogan remains wildly popular in Gaza, his stock in the Arab world has declined as a result of quelling of protests.

July 3, 2013 11:07
2 minute read.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party

Erdogan jazz hands 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was non-committal Tuesday on whether he will visit the Gaza Strip in the near future, as the chaos in Egypt makes it unlikely he will enter the region through Rafah.

The Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that Erdogan told reporters after a speech to his parliamentary group that the date of his oft-delayed trip has not yet been set.

Abdel-Salam Siam, secretary-general of the Hamas-run cabinet in Gaza, said last week that, barring unforeseen events, Erdogan would visit Gaza on July 5. Hamas run media outlets reported that he would arrive by sea on a navy vessel, dock outside Israel’s territorial waters and take a helicopter into Gaza.

According to the newspaper, Erdogan avoided answering a question about whether the visit could take place in July, saying he will announce it when the date is decided.

Erdogan said last week that despite having to postpone the visit that was scheduled for mid- June because of the Gezi protests that rocked Turkey, he did intend to make the trip in the near future.

“These [Gezi] events unfortunately led to this postponement. Gaza is ready, but we could not be ready because of these events. We could make a surprise [visit] at any moment,” he said.

Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh visited Erdogan in Ankara in the midst of the Turkish street protests.

Israel has not been formally appraised of any plan by Erdogan to visit the region, one official said.

He added, however, that in recent days a “handful” of Turkish journalists have arrived and asked for accreditation to cover the possible visit.

Erdogan has been talking about an imminent trip to Gaza since March, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for loss of life that may have been caused by IDF operational errors on the Mavi Marmara.

A number of dates – in April, May, June and now July – have been floated since then for the trip.

While Erdogan remains wildly popular in Gaza, his stock in the Arab world has declined as a result of his heavy-handed quelling of the Gezi protests.

He is unlikely to be greeted warmly by much of Egypt, because he is widely seen as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization millions of Egyptians now hold in disrepute.

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