Erdogan: 'Ahmadinejad is our friend, Lieberman threatened to nuke GazaMonday's Guardian has an interview with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, most of which is about Erdogan's great relations with Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Friendly towards a religious theocratic Iran, covetous and increasingly resentful of a secular but maddeningly dismissive Europe: it seems the perfect summary of Turkey's east-west dichotomy.If that's not enough to convince you that Israel's relations with Turkey are a thing of the past, please consider this blood libel against Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
Erdogan's partiality towards Ahmadinejad may surprise some in the west who see Turkey as a western-oriented democracy firmly grounded inside Nato. It has been a member of the alliance since 1952. It will be less surprising to Erdogan's secular domestic critics, who believe the prime minister's heart lies in the east and have long suspected his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) government of plotting to transform Turkey into a religious state resembling Iran.
Erdogan vigorously denies the latter charge, but to his critics he and Ahmadinejad are birds of a feather: devout religious conservatives from humble backgrounds who court popular support by talking the language of the street. After Ahmadinejad's disputed presidential election in June, Erdogan and his ally, the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, were among the first foreign leaders to make congratulatory phone calls, ignoring the mass demonstrations and concerns of western leaders over the result's legitimacy.
Talking to the Guardian, Erdogan called the move a "necessity of bilateral relations". "Mr Ahmadinejad was declared to be the winner, not officially, but with a large vote difference, and since he is someone we have met before, we called to congratulate him," he said.
"Later it was officially declared that he was elected, he got a vote of confidence and we pay special attention to something like this. It is a basic principle of our foreign policy."
The gesture will be remembered when Erdogan arrives in Tehran this week for talks with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, that will focus on commercial ties, including Turkey's need for Iranian natural gas. Ahmadinejad has voiced his admiration for Erdogan, praising Turkey's recent decision to ban Israel from a planned Nato manoeuvre in protest at last winter's bombardment of Gaza.
Erdogan's views will interest US foreign policy makers, who have long seen his AKP government as a model of a pro-western "moderate Islam" that could be adopted in other Muslim countries. They will also find an audience with President Barack Obama, who signalled Turkey's strategic importance in a visit last April and has invited the prime minister to visit Washington. They are unlikely to impress Israel, which has warned that Erdogan's criticisms risk harming Turkey's relations with the US.Read the whole thing.
Erdogan dismissed the notion, saying: "I don't think there is any possibility of that. America's policy in this region is not dictated by Israel."
He insisted that the Turkey-Israel strategic alliance – which some AKP insiders have said privately is over – remains alive but chided the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who he said had threatened to use nuclear weapons against Gaza.
Goebbels would have been proud of that comment.
If anyone thinks that Israel's relations with Turkey are going to return to what they once were anytime soon, you're fooling yourself.