ANKARA - The majority of people in key Middle East nations see Turkey as a model and a proof that Islam and democracy can co-exist, according to an opinion poll by a leading Turkish think-tank.
The survey seen Thursday found that 66 percent of people in several key parts of the region saw Turkey as a successful model for development.
Conducted by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) in August and September, the poll covered some 2,300 people in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Saudi Arabia
Its release coincided with a deadly uprising in Egypt and unrest in other parts of the region following the downfall of Tunisia's ruler last month
Sixty-six percent of the respondents said "Turkey can be a model for Middle East countries" and an equal majority said they saw Turkey "as a successful synthesis of Islam and democracy."
Asked why Turkey can be a model, 15 percent pointed at the country's "Muslim identity," while others cited, in a descending order, its economy, democratic regime and "its defence of the rights of the Palestinians and the Muslims."
Among those who rejected Turkey as a model, 12 percent cited its secular system, while a lesser number found the country to be "not Muslim enough" or pointed at "its ties with the West."
Seventy-three percent believed Turkey's influence in Middle East affairs had grown over the past several years, and 78 percent said the country should step up its role, with an equal majority favouring Turkish mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Turkey topped the list of favourite holiday destinations, and 78 percent of the respondents said they had watched at least one Turkish soap opera.
TESEV conducted the study to measure the effect of Turkey's drive over the past several years to raise its profile and clinch a leadership role in the region.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a fierce critic of Israel and a passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause, has won himself a hero's status in the Arab street.
Under his Islamist-rooted government, ties with Arab countries and Iran have seen a spectacular revival: Ankara has mediated in a series of regional spats and signed trade pacts and visa-free travel deals with neighbours.