Saturday, November 30, 2013

Egypt-Turkey Relations Strained

CAIRO, Nov 23: Cairo on Saturday expelled Turkey’s ambassador and Ankara downgraded relations in tit-for-tat moves that marked a further fraying of ties after the July ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

The latest row between the two US allies saw Egypt expel the Turkish envoy after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday renewed his criticism of the “coup” that ousted Mr Morsi and Egypt’s continuing crackdown on his Islamist supporters.

Cairo decided to expel Turkish ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali, declare him persona non grata, downgrade ties to the level of charge d’affaires and not send its own ambassador back to Turkey, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said.

A ministry statement accused Ankara of “supporting...organisations seeking to create instability in the country,” in a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood movement to which Mr Morsi belongs.

It said Ankara was also “trying to influence the international community against Egyptian interests”.
Turkey responded by declaring Cairo’s ambassador to Ankara, Abderahman Salah El Din, as “persona non grata” and downgrading ties “in line with the reciprocity principle that forms the basis of international relations”. 

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the Egyptian charge d’affaires in Ankara for an explanation and said Ankara held Cairo’s new military-installed authorities responsible for the current tensions.

Cairo and Ankara had both recalled their ambassadors after a previous spat in August, but while Mr Botsali eventually returned to Cairo, Egypt’s envoy Salah El Din stayed home.

Mr Abdelatty said Mr Erdogan’s latest comments, made in Ankara on Thursday before he headed to Russia for talks, were “provocative” and amounted to “interference in Egypt’s internal affairs”.

The Turkish premier had said: “I applaud Mr Morsi’s stance against the judiciary. I respect him. I have no respect for those who put him on trial.” Mr Morsi is being tried on charges of inciting the killing of protesters during his one-year rule but has told the court that he remains the country’s legitimate president and does not recognise its authority.

In a separate development on Saturday, Egypt extended by 15 days the detention of a Turkish student for participating in protests in Al Azhar university.

HOPE FOR STABILITY: Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had forged a close alliance with Mr Morsi after he won Egypt’s first freely contested presidential election in June 2012.

But the president was ousted by the army following days of mass protests by opponents, who accused him of poor governance and of betraying the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling president Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Erdogan angered Egypt’s new authorities immediately after Mr Morsi’s July 3 ouster by describing it as a coup. 

Mr Morsi’s opponents have rejected that term, insisting the army responded to the will of the people expressed through mass protests.—AFP

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