Ankara fine-tuning response to Arab unrest
In the wake of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's weekend phone conversation with US President Barack Obama, Turkey is fine-tuning its position on the unrest in the Arab world that started in Tunisia and is now rocking Egypt. The Foreign Ministry yesterday provided both the president and prime minister with updates on the latest developments in Egypt, while the Cabinet discussed the situation. Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said after the Cabinet meeting that Egypt should meet the "legitimate demands" of its people. "We believe the Egyptian people should be allowed to use their basic rights and freedoms in a legitimate way and express their demands through democratic, non-violent means," he said. Cicek said Egypt holds "a key position for peace and stability in the whole region" and called on the country to restore "peace as soon as possible without being dragged into instability." The first official remarks from Ankara on the turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt came from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week, saying that Arab governments cannot ignore their citizens' just demands. President Abdullah Gul said he was closely following the issue." Over the weekend, President Obama telephoned Erdogan to discuss ways of working together to prevent the entire Middle East from falling into instability. "Turkey and the US agree on the necessity to meet the legitimate and democratic rights of the people in the region," said a statement from the Prime Ministry. Erdogan, however, has been silent on the developments, so expectations are running high that he may touch on the issue during his weekly address to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting in Parliament today. State Minister for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan said yesterday that a crisis desk for both Tunisia and Egypt has been set up at the Foreign Trade Undersecretariat. Five aircraft evacuated 1,180 Turkish nationals from Egypt on Sunday, Foreign Ministry officials said. Turkish Airlines (THY) set up a crisis desk at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. The planes also carried 40 foreigners, including staff from the Georgian and Azerbaijani embassies in Cairo.