Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sided with the Egyptian protesters against their president in a televised speech on Tuesday in which he rebuked Hosni Mubarak and urged him to take a bold step before more blood is spilled.
“I am saying this clearly: You must be the first to take a step for Egypt’s peace, security and stability,” Erdogan said, addressing the Egyptian president during his speech before the Turkish parliament.
He spoke as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding that Mubarak leave the government and even the country.
“In our world today, freedoms can no longer be postponed or ignored,” Erdogan said. “We hope that these incidents come to an end as soon as possible, without leading to great suffering, and that the people’s legitimate and sensible demands are met.”
Turkey has emerged as an important regional mediator in recent years, facilitating talks between opposing factions in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and even between enemy states Israel and Syria.
Turkey’s idea of neutrality, however, has aggravated some in Washington who have accused Ankara of playing all sides to its advantage and of strengthening relations with Iran and Syria at the expense of its friendship with Israel.
Turkey was hailed by many in the Arab world as a hero nation when a Turkish aid flotilla headed for Gaza was raided by Israeli commandos who shot and killed nine people. Turkey has long sought to paint itself as a model Muslim democracy.
“It is our greatest wish to see that both the people and the government act with a similar sense of responsibility and with a dignity that befits the peoples of the region, to shoulder a change that will satisfy all sectors in Egypt, and that will carry the freedoms and democracy to the highest standards,” Erdogan said. “Turkey will continue to remain on the side of the brotherly peoples of Egypt and Tunisia, and to share their sorrow, joy and hopes.”
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