Muslim Brotherhood hails Erdogan's stance against Israel

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie praises Erdogan's 'brave stance' in the face of 'Zionist insolence', saying that he had the admiration of the entire Arab and Muslim worlds.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Pope Shenuda III, head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, in Cairo on Septemper 14, 2011.  Erdogan, is on  a three-nation Arab Spring tour in Egypt, threw his weight behind Palestinian statehood during a keynote speech at the Arab League yesterday, bolstering his image as a regional leader.  AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED HOSSAM 
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CAIRO // Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Cairo on the second day of his "Arab Spring tour" yesterday, receiving praise for his position in an continuing diplomatic row with Israel.

After the talks, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie, praised Mr Erdogan's "brave stance" in the face of "Zionist insolence", saying that he had the admiration of the entire Arab and Muslim worlds.

Two weeks ago, Mr Erdogan's government expelled the Israeli ambassador after Israel refused to apologise for the death of nine activists during an Israeli raid on the flotilla. In speeches on Tuesday, Mr Erdogan repeatedly linked the death to Egypt's recent loss of six members of its security forces in an Israeli cross border operation.

Yesterday, Mr Erdogan was greeted by cheering crowds during his visit to the capital - part of a tour of countries that have recently overthrown autocratic rulers. Mr Erdogan arrived in Tunisia last night and will travel to Libya tomorrow.

Analysts say the visit is designed to strengthen Turkey's claim to become a regional leader and his recent tough stance on Israel has made him hugely popular in Egypt. Under the former president Hosni Mubarak Egypt was a dependable ally to Israel.

"All of Egyptians love Erdogan for his respect of Islam and the kindred losses Turkey and Egypt have suffered at Israeli hands," said Haneefi Al Ashi, a 56-year-old grocer.

With its Islamist roots and election success, Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party could act as a possible model for the Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups as they prepare for the first free elections in 30 years.

Though Mr Badie said Egypt should forge deeper ties with the Turkish government, his endorsement fell short of encouraging Mr Erdogan to take on the responsibility of shaping Egypt's transition to democracy.

In recent years, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main opposition group, has witnessed a widening split in the organisation along generational lines. Younger members, who tend to hold more moderate views, are likely to embrace Mr Erdogan's visit.

Mr Erdogan also met leaders of Egypt's uprising, Pope Shenuda III, head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, and candidates for Egypt's presidential elections.

Some Egyptians remained unconvinced that the meetings would have a lasting effect on Egypt's political landscape without the country first voting a government into power.

"Maybe there's a change in how politics are made in this region of the world, but it is too early to make any judgement," said Ahmed Atef Fayed, 32, a psychiatrist.

"The leadership examples we will look to follow depend on what kind of government we elect. Naturally, with Turkey as a neighbour and a Muslim country, it is seen as a good mirror for ourselves."

During Mr Erdogan's speech at Cairo's Opera house on Tuesday evening he told Arab leaders that the uprisings in the region were a "light of hope" for the oppressed.

"His speeches are likely to empower civil society," said Emad Gad, an analyst at Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, adding that meeting with political leaders such as the Muslim Brotherhood, has shown that Egypt's "political powers are ready to deal with Mr Erdogan as moderate, democratic powers".

Turkey is hoping Egyptian leaders can learn lessons from the "Turkish experience", said Theodore Karasik, the director of the Dubai based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

"I think Turkey is trying to capture the sentiment of the younger generation so the new Egypt will be a democratic state where Islamist parties can flourish," he said.

Mr Gad said closer economic and diplomatic ties with Mr Erdogan were unlikely to jeopardise Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

"The government's response to the Israeli embassy attacks shows that Egypt is not going to hurt its ties with Israel, and it cannot change that relationship because of strategic partnerships with Turkey."

Mr Gad said that though Mr Erdogan is likely to be angling for a strategic alliance with Egypt that will place Turkey as a major regional player, it is unlikely the talks will create any actual change.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse