Turkey's Erdogan praises Arab democracy while on North Africa tour


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves upon his arrival on September 14, 2011 in Tunis. Erdogan is on a three-day official visit to Tunisia.



Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday hailed Arab efforts at democracy while on a visit to Tunisia, the country where the "Arab Spring" began.

Erdogan's trip to Tunisia is the second leg of a North Africa tour. He visited Egypt on Wednesday, where he delivered a keynote address to the Arab League. On Friday, the Turkish leader will travel to Libya.

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In Tunisia, moderate Islamists inspired by Erdogan's Justice and Development Party are expected to win in landmark October 23 assembly elections, Agence France-Presse reports. Rached Ghannouchi's Ennahda (Renaissance) party is expected to win in what will be Tunisia's first elections since the ousting of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the country for 23 years.

"Islam and democracy are not contradictory. A Muslim can run a state very successfully," Erdogan said after meeting with Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi, AFP reports.

"The success of the electoral process in Tunisia will show the world that democracy and Islam can go together," he said.

Speaking to reporters in Tunisia, Erdogan slammed Israel for saying that Turkey is ready to deploy warships if a feud with Israel over its blockade of Gaza escalates, VOA reports.

Turkey-Israel relations have hit new lows amid a continuing diplomatic crisis. Turkey is demanding an apology for Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship containing pro-Palestinian activists in June 2010, the Associated Press says.

"Israel cannot do as it pleases in the Mediterranean," Erdogan said, according to the AP.

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