Egypt, Turkey downgrade mutual ties

Turkey continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood and has refused to recognize Egypt’s new rulers as legitimate

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Egypt on Saturday expelled the Turkish ambassador and downgraded diplomatic relations with Turkey, prompting Ankara to declare Cairo’s ambassador a “persona non grata” in a tit-for-tat reaction.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country took the step due to Turkey’s continued “interference” in Egyptian internal affairs.

The spokesman also accused Ankara of backing unnamed organizations bent on spreading instability, in an indirect reference to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkey was “attempting to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests, supported meetings of organizations that seek to create instability in the country,” said Abdelatty on Saturday.

Turkey has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of President Mohammad Mursi’s ouster, calling it an “unacceptable coup.”

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests calling for his reinstatement, has close ties with Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.

In response to Egypt’s decision, Turkey declared Egypt’s ambassador “persona non grata” and downgraded diplomatic relations to the level of charge d’affaires.

A foreign ministry said statement said the decision was taken “in line with the reciprocity principle that forms the basis of international relations.”

Both Turkey and Egypt had recalled their respective envoys in August for consultations, but while the Turkish ambassador eventually returned to Cairo in September, Egyptian Abderahman Salah el-Din stayed home.

The foreign ministry held Egypt’s military-installed interim government “responsible” for the current tensions.

“We hope that friendly and brotherly Egypt will regain stability and democracy as soon as possible and relations between our countries will return to normal,” added the ministry.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul spoke live on state run TRT television, saying: “I hope our relations will again get back on track.”

The escalation came after after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renewed his criticism of Egypt’s military-backed rulers, criticizing the trial of Mursi and describing the situation in Egypt as “humanitarian drama.”

Erdogan previously criticized Mursi’s ouster, calling it a “coup,” prompting Egypt to announce the cancellation of a planned military drill with Turkey. Ankara said it was the one who cancelled the drill and that Egyptian officials claimed the announcement in public.

Egypt accuses Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) of being part a secret international alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood to revive the Islamic caliphate.

In his first reaction to Saturday's events, Erdogan said his government would never respect military-installed rulers.

“I will never respect those who come to power after coups,” Erdogan told reporters.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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