Turkey PM Erdogan arrives in Cairo

AFP , Tuesday 13 Sep 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Revep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Cairo to be the first destination in his "Arab Spring" tour, amid strained relations with Israel and ahead of Palestinian endeavours for UN membership

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) visits the tomb of the late former President Anwar al-Sadat and Unknown Soldier monument in Cairo September 13, 2011.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Cairo late Monday on the first leg of an Arab Spring tour, airport officials said, amid strained relations with Israel and a Palestinian push for UN membership.

Erdogan, who has garnered popularity among Arabs for his denunciations of Israel, was met by his Egyptian counterpart Essam Sharaf and several thousand admirers, the officials said.

Erdogan will later meet with Sharaf as well as Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

He will also deliver a speech on Tuesday at a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers, according to his official programme.

Besides his official talks, Erdogan will meet Egypt's young leaders who spearheaded the country's popular revolt that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

He will later travel to Tunisia, where the popular overthrow of president Zine EL Abidine Ben Ali in January sparked similar movements across the region, including Libya.

Erdogan's visit to Egypt comes as Turkey's relations with Israel reached a new low after last-ditch efforts to reconcile between the once-regional allies over last year's deadly flotilla raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship failed.

In retaliation for Israel's refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the raid, Turkey's Islamist-rooted government expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended all bilateral military agreements.

Erdogan went even further by saying that Turkish navy ships would appear more frequently in the eastern Mediterranean.

Observers say the Turkish measures against Israel could boost the country's popularity in the Arab world as Ankara is also a fervent supporter of the Palestinians' drive for statehood at the United Nations later this month.

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