The Turkish Prime Minister will meet the Pope tomorrow – but only briefly. When Pope Benedict XVI lands in Ankara to begin his controversial visit to Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be there to welcome him. But the two will have less than half an hour together before Erdogan jets off to a NATO summit in Latvia.
Security will be even stricter than it was for the visit of President Bush to Turkey, according to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Many Turkish Muslims are angry at comments made by the Pontiff in September, which appeared to associate Islam with violence. Pope Benedict has also said in the past, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, that Turkey should not join the EU.
Some analysts have said the NATO summit fell conveniently for Erdogan, who could have angered Turks with an official reception. The short airport meeting will also deflect accusations of a snub to the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. In a gesture seen as conciliatory, Pope Benedict will attend Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque on Thursday.