US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have agreed that peoples' demands for “legitimate and natural democratic rights” should be recognized by their leaders, as political upheaval continues to rock the Middle East, from Egypt to Tunisia and from Lebanon to Yemen.
Obama initiated a telephone conversation with Erdoğan on Saturday night, the Turkish prime minister's press office said in a written statement released on Sunday.
Obama stated that he “attaches importance to assessing new developments in the region with Prime Minister Erdoğan as the leader of Turkey, which has strong democratic customs in the region,” and as a leader “who came to power by gaining successful election results many times,” the statement said, noting that the two leaders reached consensus that the legitimate and natural rights of the people of the region should be provided for and their calls for democracy should be heeded.
The two leaders “within this context, underscored that violence should not be used against people and voiced the hope that the developments in the regional countries would not lead to deep and fundamental instabilities,” the statement said.
Erdoğan and Obama also shared concerns that “instabilities will have damaging results for the regional countries,” it said, noting that the two leaders also decided to be in contact more frequently from now on concerning regional developments.
The statement by Erdoğan’s office, which came on the sixth day of anti-government protests in Egypt as thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets in cities across the country, didn’t name any specific regional country. Earlier this month the Turkish capital voiced only deep concern and sadness over weeks of violence that left dozens dead in Tunisia, while refraining from making any statement which could be interpreted as support for the uprising in the North African country.
A brief three-sentence statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Jan. 14, when Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country, was the first official statement by Ankara over the four-week protests, during which Tunisian police had shot dozens to death.
On Friday the ministry issued a second statement in which it noted that Ankara has been closely following developments in Tunisia. “We support the Tunisian people’s demands for a more democratic and free society and hope that the ongoing transition process will be completed with democratic, pluralist, participatory methods which are respectful of human rights and in a way that will meet these demands,” the ministry said.
“Within this framework, we are noting, with pleasure, statements on holding transparent, free and fair elections; the lifting of political bans; the investigation of corruption and building security. Turkey will continue supporting steps towards this direction in solidarity with the friendly and brotherly Tunisian people,” it also said. Earlier on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the governments in the region should focus on listening to their citizens and meeting their demands.
“With the spread of communication, societies’ demands for democratic freedom, good governance and transparency are intensifying. No society can remain outside of these developments,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying in response to a question on the developments in the region.
“These are fair demands and cannot be ignored,” Davutoğlu also said, while noting that a delegation from his ministry might visit Tunisia in the coming days. “As an island of stability and as a country of democratic freedoms, Turkey is closely following these developments and will not withhold any kind of assistance to friendly and neighboring countries. God willing, these transition processes will proceed in a healthy and more positive manner,” he said.