In Europe there is much frustration with the EU’s continued softly, softly approach on Egypt. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it seems, has no such qualms about making his voice heard.
In a speech broadcast on Turkey’s NTV network last night (English translation here), he kindly reminded the 82-year-old President Mubarak about his own mortality while making a plea for reform in Egypt:
“We will all die and be questioned for what we have done in our lives. As Muslims, we will all end up in two-cubic meter holes...You must listen, and we must listen, to the people’s outcry, to their extremely humanitarian demands. Meet the people’s desire for change with no hesitation...In our world today, freedoms can no longer be postponed or ignored.”
There is plenty to question here, not least the record of Erdogan’s own government when it comes to promoting democracy and human rights at home and in its dealings with Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
Nevertheless, he pulls no punches, and his language stands in stark contrast to anything that has emerged from Brussels so far, including the bland statement issued by the Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday (which El País colourfully described as a “communiqué of predictable inanity”).
What is most interesting about Erdogan’s speech is the status of regional leader that he forcefully claims for his country:
“Turkey is playing roles that can upturn all the stones in the region and that can change the course of history. My dear brothers, we are pursuing a foreign policy with character. Turkey is saying no to the oppressors. It is challenging what was blindly accepted until now.It is calling the murderers murderers. It is destroying taboos. Turkey is saying wait a minute to those who condemn others to poverty and to blockades. Turkey is shouting the truth and the just at every opportunity. Turkey is positing a strong will to help peace, stability, tranquillity, democracy, universal law, rights and freedoms to prevail in its region. We represent a mentality that seeks for its brothers whatever it wants for itself.”
The message is clear: Ankara will watch over its own neighbourhood; Egypt doesn’t need European help or approval. The subtext is that neither does Turkey.
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