Turkey, Egypt slam Syrian regime

Associated Press
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan salutes the members of his ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, during the congress of AKP in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012.(AP Photo)
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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey and Egypt sought to boost their alliance in a turbulent region on Sunday, unleashing harsh criticism of the Syrian regime and pledging joint support for the Palestinian cause.

Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, addressed a major congress of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party, amid signs that a partnership between their two countries is emerging, and said they both plan 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," Mursi 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."

In his speech to the congress, which is marking the ruling Justice and Development party's decade in power, 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 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.

With Khaled Mashaal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas also present, Erdogan said Turkey is determined to speak out against what he called Israel's "state terrorism" in the region and praised Morsi for his support to Palestinians.

"Through Morsi's leadership, our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and in all other Palestinian cities are able to breathe easily," he said.

Erdogan said Turkey would not reconcile with former ally Israel until it lifts its blockade of Gaza and apologizes for an attack in 2010 that killed nine mostly Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in a raid on a flotilla that tried to breach the blockade.

Israel has refused to apologize but has expressed regret for the loss of lives. It insists troops opened fire after coming under attack by activists.

During his 12-hour visit to Turkey, Morsi will try to strengthen economic ties with Turkey — a country his Muslim Brotherhood group views as an Islamic success story, mixing a strong economy with Western ties and Islamic piety.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Cairo earlier this month and pledged a $2 billion in aid to boost confidence in an economy badly battered by a tourism slump, strikes and ongoing protests since the fall of the authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in an uprising last year.

Earlier, Erdogan told delegates at the congress that the era of military coups in the country is over and that Turkey is a model for other Muslim countries to emulate.

The Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002, has maintained Turkey's decades-old secular system, but at the same time has curtailed the power of the military, which have staged three coups since the 1960s and forced an Islamic government out of office in 1997.

Earlier this month, a court sentenced more than 300 military officers to long prison terms for attempting to topple the government in 2003.

"The era of coups in this country will never return again," Erdogan said. "Anyone who intervenes or tries to intervene in democracy will sooner or later go in front of the people's courts and be made to account."

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