x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Egypt kicks out Turkish ambassador over Muslim Brotherhood fallout

The decisions by Ankara and Cairo to expel diplomats decisions are a dramatic reversal of the warming relations over the past year.

CAIRO // Egypt downgraded diplomatic relations yesterday with Turkey and expelled its ambassador from Cairo.

Turkey immediately reciprocated, declaring the Egyptian ambassador “persona non grata” and downgrading relations with Egypt to the same level.

Egypt’s ambassador had not been in the country since August, when tensions arose between the countries after the military removed the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi following days of unprecedented protests demanding he step down.

Yesterday’s decisions, which fall short of closing diplomatic missions in the two countries, are a dramatic reversal of the warming relations over the past year.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said it considered the Turkish envoy “persona non grata” and asked him to leave the country. The ministry said it will scale back its diplomatic relations with Turkey to the level of charge d’affaires.

The Turkish “leadership has persisted in its unacceptable and unjustified positions by trying to turn the international community against Egyptian interests and ... by making statements that can only be described as an offence to the popular will”, the foreign ministry statement said.

A Turkish ministry statement said Egypt’s interim government, “which came to power in exceptional circumstances”, was responsible for the deteriorating relations.

“The deep-rooted ties and bonds of brotherhood between the people of Turkey and Egypt will remain,” the statement said. “We hope that stability and democracy in Egypt is restored as soon as possible and that relations between the two countries are normalised.”

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, said he hoped relations “will be restored soon”.

Since Egypt’s 2011 uprising against Mr Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, Turkey sought to strengthen ties with the country’s new political order. The Turkish president was the first to visit Egypt after the fall of Mr Mubarak in February 2011. Trade between the two countries increased by about 27 per cent in the following year to US$3.8 billion (Dh13.95bn) in the first nine months of 2012. Turkey also increased its investment in Egypt and currently has some 26 development projects in Egypt.

Turkey’s Islamic-rooted ruling party strongly backed Mr Morsi – a leading figure in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – as an example for the Arab world of a democratically elected Islamist leader. Turkey criticised his popularly backed July 3 removal by Egypt’s military.

Turkey and Egypt previously recalled their ambassadors in August after Turkey condemned the ouster and a subsequent response to pro-Morsi protests. Turkey’s ambassador returned weeks later, but Egypt declined to return its envoy to Ankara.

Saturday’s decision comes after the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, renewed his criticism of Egypt’s interim government, dismissing the trial of Mr Morsi on charges of inciting murder of his opponents while in office and describing the situation in Egypt as a “humanitarian drama”. He had previously called for the trial of Egypt’s government for the unrest that followed Mr Morsi’s removal.

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour has said that Turkey should have relations with “Egypt and its people – and not with leaders of a certain group”.

Egyptian officials and media have repeatedly accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders of meeting in Turkey to plan protests and other ways to undermine the government in Cairo.

Yesterday, the independent Egyptian daily newspaper Al Watan reported on its front page that the international members of the Muslim Brotherhood continued “their plotting” against Egypt in a meeting in Istanbul. The paper was referring to a human rights conference in which participants said they would take legal actions against Egypt’s interim government for what they said were “massacres” against supporters of Mr Morsi.

* Associated Press