Erdogan receives hero's welcome in Egypt

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Tuesday 13 Sep 2011

PM Tayyip Erdogan chose to start his Arab cooperation-building tour in Cairo after cutting ties with Israel; a strong statement that the enthusiastic Egyptian crowd at the airport who greeted him were keenly aware of

Erdogan supporters
Islamists warmly welcomed Erdogan upon his arrival in Cairo (Photo by: Lina Wardani) ‎

Turkey's prime minister Erdogan arrived in Cairo yesterday evening on his first stop in an "Arab Spring" tour that starts with Egypt and will proceed onto Libya and Tunisia. A few thousand Egyptians awaited Erdogan at the airport, carrying signs of welcome and support.

A few weeks prior to his visit, a Facebook campaign was launched, calling for a welcoming party at the airport to greet the prime minister with roses. The organisers wished to show their support for Turkey's latest decision to cut ties with Israel following heightened tensions between the two Mediterranean powers.

Ankara recently expelled the Israeli ambassador after Tel Aviv refused to apologise for its raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla last year. During the raid, eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent were killed.

The Turkish leader’s visit has received a lot of attention from people in Egypt and around the world, due to recent border tensions between Egypt and Israel.

Many Egyptians believe Egypt should have emulated Turkey's resonse to Tel Aviv by also cutting diplomatic relations with Israel as a response to the killing of six Egyptian soldiers on the Egyptian-Israeli border last month.

Turkey's move to expel the Israeli ambassador and freeze mutual agreements occurred just after mass protests broke out in Cairo in front of the Israeli embassy last week.

Consequently, Erdogan has seen his popularity skyrocket among Egyptians: a factor which could help the leader as he seeks to strengthen Turkey’s relations with post-Mubarak Egypt.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood comprised a sizeable portion of the airport welcome, as they carried flags emblazoned with the Brotherhood's logo and chanted in favour of Erdogan – interspersing their chants with praises of God.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been a strong supporter of Turkey's current government despite differences between the two sides over emphasis on the role of secularism in politics.

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