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  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey needs a country like Israel as he seeks to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey needs a country like Israel as he seeks to normalize relations with Tel Aviv. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 January 2016

The Turkish President says Turkey needs a country like Israel few days after his remarks citing Hitler’s Germany as an example for a presidential system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey needs a country like Israel as the two countries strive to normalize relations after years of diplomatic deadlock.

"Israel needs a country like Turkey in this region. We, too, should admit that we need a country like Israel," Erdogan told journalists on a flight back from an official visit to Saudi Arabia. "This is a regional fact. We need to see it."

His comments came few days after he said he seeks a presidential system similar to Adolf Hitler's in Germany.

Erdogan captured international attention when he said that the presidential system he aspired for is somewhat similar to the one Hitler had in Germany. He made the remarks after he was asked if a presidential system would function properly and democratically in a non-federal state such as Turkey.

"Yes. There is nothing to say that you can't have a presidential system in a unitary state,” Erdogan said during an interview late Thursday. "There are already some examples in the world today, and also some from the past. You see it when you look at Hitler's Germany.”

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After drawing international attention and domestic dismay, the office of the Turkish presidency responded Friday saying Erdogan’s comments were distorted and taken out of context by media outlets.

Erdogan’s comments saturday came as a new push for normalization between Israel and Turkey is underway. Until 2010, Turkey and Israel had enjoyed relatively good diplomatic and economic relations.

However, in 2010, the two countries clashed when the Humanitarian Marmara flotilla to Gaza was boarded by Israeli troops who killed nine unarmed people, including seven Turkish citizens.

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Since then, diplomatic relations and ties between the two countries not recovered, even after the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered in 2013 an official apology to Turkey amid pressure from United States.

In Turkey, the president has only ceremonial powers. Erdogan became the first Turkish president to come to office through public vote in 2014. Presidents before then were elected by the national assembly.

Since he came to office, Erdogan has been vocally pushing for a presidential system for the past several years, which he argues would strengthen Turkish democracy. But many in Turkey see it as means of consolidating power.

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Despite Erdogan’s ambitions and popularity, successive polls have shown that the public did not support a presidential system.

Leading local paper Hurriyet reported Friday that many polls conducted by various survey companies, including those close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which Erdogan cofounded, have shown that support for a presidential system has not yet reached 50 percent.

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