Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Egypt yesterday on a visit that is expected to include a meeting with Egyptian leader Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. Erdogan will address the Arab League today and is later due to give a speech aimed at the entire Muslim world.
Erdogan's visit comes against the backdrop of the recently-published UN report on last year's Gaza flotilla, when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara. Erdogan curtailed Turkey's military and commercial ties to Israel after Israel didn't respond to calls to apologize.
Erdogan is accompanied by a particularly large military and commercial delegation in Cairo, and is due to sign a number of accords with Egypt. He is thought to be attempting to burnish an image as the dominant Sunni Muslim leader of the Middle East. It is unlikely that the Egyptian leadership would be enamored with anything that would enflame passions in Egypt, particularly after last week's storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the reimposition of emergency rule in the country.
The anticipated anti-Israel tone Erdogan is expected to take publicly on the visit is likely to embarrass his Egyptian military hosts, who have been toeing a fine line between crowds calling on the revocation of the peace treaty with Israel and their own desire to maintain order and the peace treaty.
The Egyptian leadership is concerned that Erdogan will whip up demonstrations against a continued Israeli diplomatic presence in Cairo and even engender opposition to the current Egyptian leadership. Erdogan is also expected to attempt to portray himself as the leading defender of the Palestinians.
Yesterday, the Turkish daily Sabah reported that Ankara intends to send three battleships to the Mediterranean Sea to ensure the Israeli Navy doesn't stop future aid ships that might be sent to Gaza.
The Israeli defense establishment declined to respond officially to the report but a senior official unofficially cast doubt on the news item, adding there is currently no concern about a Turkish-Egyptian military alliance that would be directed against Israel. The assessment at the Israeli defense establishment is that the friction between Israel and Turkey will not result in a military confrontation.
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