Turkey's Erdogan says not bothered by 'isolation' on world stage

Two ex-policemen have been arrested on suspicion of bugging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez) (AFP/File)

Ankara (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted in an interview published Sunday he was unconcerned by Turkey's "isolation" on the world stage, despite deteriorating relations with several former allies.

"I do not mind isolation in the world," Erdogan was quoted as telling the Hurriyet newspaper after a tour of Colombia, Cuba and Mexico.

He suggested other world leaders might be "jealous" of him for speaking his mind on major issues, but that ordinary people supported him.

Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003 as prime minister and then president, admitted he no longer enjoyed good relations with US President Barack Obama.

"I had very good relations with Obama when I first came to power," he said, recalling White House meetings with the president.

But he added: "After all these talks, we see things started to develop in a different way which I barely understand."

Ties with its NATO ally have frayed in part because of differences over how to respond to the conflict in Syria.

Turkey, a vocal critic of President Bashar al-Assad, has nevertheless remained reluctant to join a US-led coalition to fight Islamic State insurgents who have seized large chunks of territory in Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.

Under Erdogan, Turkey's relations with Israel have also been left in tatters with the president declaring in July that the Jewish state had "surpassed Hitler in barbarism".

A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Turkey also condemned the ouster of Mohamed Morsi after a "coup", and labelled Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a "tyrant."

In an escalation of tensions, Ankara has withdrawn its ambassadors from both Israel and Egypt.