Turkey expects to team with Egypt

Sept. 19, 2011 at 4:30 AM   |   0 comments

ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The Arab world's new power axis will link Turkey and Egypt, Turkey's foreign minister said, predicting isolation for former allies Syria and Israel.

The teaming of two of the region's militarily strongest and most populous and influential countries "will not be an axis against any other country -- not Israel, not Iran, not any other country, but this will be an axis of democracy, real democracy," Ahmet Davutoglu told The New York Times before traveling to the United Nations.

"That will be an axis of democracy of the two biggest nations in our region, from the north to the south, from the Black Sea down to the Nile Valley in Sudan," he said.

"For the regional balance of power, we want to have a strong, very strong, Egypt," said Davutoglu, who has visited Cairo five times since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February.

"Some people may think Egypt and Turkey are competing," he said. "No. This is our strategic decision. We want a strong Egypt now."

He predicted Turkey's $1.5 billion investment in Egypt would grow to $5 billion within two years. He said trade would increase to $5 billion from $3.5 billion by the end of 2012 and to $10 billion by 2015.

"For democracy, we need a strong economy," he told the newspaper.

Davutoglu also declared Israel solely responsible for the near-collapse in relations with Turkey, once an ally, and he accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of lying to him after Turkish officials offered Syria a "last chance" to maintain Turkish support by halting its brutal crackdown on dissent.

Relations between Turkey and Israel were severely damaged after Israeli troops killed nine people aboard a Turkish flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010.

Israel refused Turkish demands following the attack, including to apologize, compensate the victims and lift Israel's Gaza Strip blockade.

"Nobody can blame Turkey or any other country in the region for its isolation," Davutoglu said of Israel ahead of an expected contentious U.N. debate this week over a Palestinian bid for recognition as a state.

"It was Israel and the government's decision to isolate themselves," he said. "And they will be isolated even more if they continue this policy of rejecting any proposal."

Regarding Syria, Turkey felt betrayed by Assad, who continually promised reforms, then broke the promises, Davutoglu said.

"For us, that was the last chance," he told the Times.

He said Assad was living an autocratic illusion.

"They think that in a few days they will control the situation," he said. "Not today, but tomorrow, next week, next month. They don't see. And this is a vicious circle."

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