Turkish PM Erdogan
Turkish PM ErdoganIsrael news photo: (file)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed his country's increasingly close ties with Iran on Monday in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian. Of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Erdogan said, “There is no doubt he is our friend.”

Relations between Iran and Turkey are “very good,” Erdogan reported, even as many Israelis see Turkey increasingly distance itself from Israel. He defended Iran against charges that it is actively seeking nuclear weapons, saying the Islamic republic wants nuclear technology “for the purposes of energy only.”

The Turkish PM will visit Iran this week, and will meet with Ahmadinejad as well as Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The talks are expected to focus on economic ties between the two nations, which have grown dramatically in recent years to an estimated $9 billion.

Erdogan said he would not challenge Iran over the alleged abuse of pro-reform demonstrators. Turkey does not interfere in Iran's domestic affairs, he said.

When asked about Turkey's ties to Israel, Erdogan stated that the two countries remain strategic allies. However, he also slammed Israel for allegedly threatening nuclear war on Gaza.

Israeli Flags Burn in Istanbul

Hundreds of Turkish Muslims protested against Israel on Monday in response to calls from Muslim leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Muslim leaders in Jerusalem had accused Israel of planning to harm the Al-Aksa Mosque atop the Temple Mount.

Screaming “We will defend Al-Aksa,” the Turkish demonstrators marched on Israel's consulate in Istanbul. The protesters burnt Israeli flags and waved PLO flags and pictures of the Al-Aksa mosque.