Turkish prime minister says his country must take a leadership role to address worsening crisis on its southern border.
Turkey’s prime minister has said that the era of military coups in his country is over, a week after a court sentenced more than 300 military officers for attempting to overthrow the government.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan trumpeted Turkey’s credentials as a rising democratic power on Sunday while addressing a ruling party congress in Ankara.
Erdogan also said that his Islamist-rooted ruling party had become an example to the Muslim world after being in charge for a decade.
Addressing thousands of party members and regional leaders at a congress of his Justice and Development (AK) Party, Erdogan vowed to forge a more diverse constitution and turn a new page in relations with Turkey’s 15 million Kurds, in a speech lasting almost two and half hours and meant to chart the AK Party’s agenda for the next decade.
“We called ourselves conservative democrats. We focused our change on basic rights and freedom,” Erdogan told thousands of cheering party members at the congress in a sports stadium in the capital Ankara.
“This stance has gone beyond our country’s borders and has become an example for all Muslim countries.”
Leaders including Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev and Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, were among the guests.
Under Erdogan’s rule, the AK Party has won three consecutive landslide election victories since 2002, ending a
history of fragile coalition governments punctuated by military coups and marking Turkey’s longest period of single-party
government for more than half a century.
Per capita income has nearly tripled in that time and Turkey has re-established itself as a regional power, with its allies seeing its mix of democratic stability and Islamic culture as a potential role model in a volatile region.
“Turkey has shown the bright face of Islam,” Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’s leader in exile, told the congress.
“Erdogan, you are not only a leader in Turkey now, you are a leader in the Muslim world as well.”
Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, also addressed the congress on Sunday and said that both countries planned to stand by Palestinians and the Syrian people.
“Our common goal is to support other people who are standing up against their administrations or regimes, to support Palestine and the Syrians in their efforts,” Morsi said.
“The events in Syria are the tragedy of the century,” Morsi said.
“We will be on the side of the Syrian people until the bloodshed ends, the cruel regime is gone and Syrian people reach their just rights.”
Erdogan promised that Turkey, which is host to some 88,000 Syrian refuges as well as Syrian opposition groups, would
continue to support the Syrian people wanting to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
He appealed to Russia, China and Iran to stop backing the regime.
“We call on Russia, China as well as Iran: please review your stance. History will not forgive those who stand together with cruel regimes,” he said.