Turkeyâ€™s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Chairman of Libyaâ€™s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil wave to people during a rally at Martyrsâ€™ Square in Tripoli September 16, 2011.
Following criticism in Egypt, the Turkish PM repeats his support for secular governments where he says all religious groups are treated equally
Turkish Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan (L) draws intense interest during his visit to a covered bazaar in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. AA photo Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan on Thursday repeated his controversial call for uprising-hit Arab countries to adopt â€œsecular states,â€ following Turkeyâ€™s model.
â€œTurkey is a democratic, secular and social state of law. As for secularism, a secular state has an equal distance to all religious groups, including Muslim, Christian, Jewish and atheist people,â€ ErdoÄŸan said during a visit to Tunis, the place where the wave of pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa began late last year.
â€œTunisia will prove to the whole world that Islam and democracy can co-exist. Turkey with its predominantly Muslim population has achieved it,â€ ErdoÄŸan said. His administration is seen by many as a model for post-revolution Arab countries, though Islamic groups in Egypt were split over his pro-secularism remarks there.
â€œOn the subject of secularism, this is not secularism in the Anglo-Saxon or Western sense; a person is not secular, the state is secular,â€ ErdoÄŸan said, describing Turkey as democratic and secular. â€œA Muslim can govern a secular state in a successful way. In Turkey, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, and it did not pose any problem.
You can do the same here.â€
ErdoÄŸan traveled to Tunisia following a rapturous welcome in Cairo and issued the kind of trademark warning to Israel that has earned him hero status on his â€œArab Spring tour.â€
â€œIsrael will no longer be able to do what it wants in the Mediterranean and youâ€™ll be seeing Turkish warships in this sea,â€ the Turkish prime minister said after meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, on the third day of his visit to North Africa.
ErdoÄŸan reiterated his insistence on an Israeli apology for last yearâ€™s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead.
â€œRelations with Israel cannot normalize if Israel does not apologize for the flotilla raid, compensate the martyrsâ€™ families and lift the blockade on Gaza,â€ ErdoÄŸan said, adding that Turkey would assure protection for Turkish vessels bound for Gaza or elsewhere in international waters. â€œIsrael cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. It will see our determination. Our frigates, our assault boats will be there.â€
ErdoÄŸanâ€™s visit marks â€œthe willingness to strengthen brotherly relations and cooperation between Tunisia and Turkey,â€ the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu was one of the first top foreign officials to visit Tunisia in February and is also among the Turkish ministers accompanying ErdoÄŸan on his visit. DavutoÄŸlu signed a friendship and cooperation agreement with his Tunisian counterpart, Mouldi Kefi, in Tunisia on Thursday.
Accompanied by a delegation of ministers and businessmen, ErdoÄŸan arrived late Wednesday at the Tunis international airport, where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Essebsi.
Around 4,000 people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags had also gathered at the airport under heavy security to show their support for the man who has become one of the regionâ€™s most popular leaders.
ErdoÄŸan is due in Libya on Friday for the final leg of his tour. The transitional administration there has also said that Islam would be the main source of legislation in the new Libya.
* Compiled from AFP, AP, Reuters and AA stories by the Daily News staff.a