Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Repeat attack

Ties between Egypt and Turkey are likely to remain strained as long Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, Doaa El-Bey reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used Sunday’s World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul to reiterate the attacks on Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi that he voiced at the UN General Assembly 69th session in New York last week. 

“Unfortunately,” Erdogan told delegates in his address to the Forum, “we see that in one country where the will of the people manifested itself, those who were elected with 52 per cent of the vote are toppled by one of the ministers of the cabinet.”

“That coup is accepted and legitimised by the rest of the world, including countries governed democratically,” claimed the Turkish president.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry quickly hit back.

On Monday it posted a statement on its website noting that “followers of Turkey’s internal politics throughout the last 12 years can only conclude that Erdogan — who claims to be defending democracy and the Arab Spring — has a record that is far from democratic”.

Erdogan, it said, was continuing to promote “exaggerations and lies”.

“Whoever has followed Turkish affairs in the last 12 years will conclude that the internal record and practices of Mr Erdogan who claims that he sponsors democracy and defends Arab spring are far from genuine democracy.”

Monday’s statement went on to note Turkish restrictions on the media and freedom of opinion, including Erdogan’s decision to block access to Twitter last year, and Ankara’s use of force in dispersing political activists and peaceful demonstrators. Such actions, it said, betray “Mr Erdogan’s narrow ideological orientations, linked to his intellectual and personal ambitions and his illusions about restoring the Ottoman Empire”.

It concluded that Erdogan is “not in a position to give lessons to others on democracy and respect for human rights or appoint himself as the guardian of either”.

This is the second time in less than a week that Erdogan has provoked a strong reaction from the Foreign Ministry. The first incident occurred at the United Nations General Assembly, where he also questioned the legitimacy of the Egyptian government.

In his speech, he criticised Al-Sisi’s rise to power.

“The United Nations, as well as the democratic countries, have done nothing but watch events that included the overthrow of the elected president in Egypt and the killings of thousands of innocent people who wanted to defend their choice. And the person who carried out this coup is being legitimised.”

Egypt’s foreign ministry dismissed Erdogan’s comments at the UN as “disregarding the will of the Egyptian people as expressed on June 30”.

They were “lies and fabrications” that “distorted the truth”, spread by someone “keen to provoke chaos and sow divisions in the Middle East through his support of terrorist organisations”.

Erdogan’s comments prompted Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to cancel a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly with his Turkish counterpart.

Erdogan has been a vocal critic of events in Egypt since the ouster of Morsi in July 2013. Morsi, he has claimed on several occasions, was the victim of a coup.

Egypt and Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties in November, expelling each other’s ambassadors.

Following the Turkish president’s latest outbursts, some members of the public have demanded a stronger reaction. Calls have been circulating on social media for a boycott of Turkish goods and review of trade agreements.

“People try to draw a line between the Turkish people and Erdogan but that line is becoming very thin,” says Ahmed Zaher, an engineer. It’s no wonder some activists on social media are asking Egyptian travel companies to remove Turkey from their destinations, and lists of Turkish products sold in the Egyptian market are being published so the public can boycott them.”

“The Turkish people may not be part of this but relations between Egypt and Turkey cannot improve as long as Erdogan is in power. He constantly attacks our president,” said Ahmed, a taxi driver.

Ankara was one of Mohamed Morsi’s closest allies. Under Muslim Brotherhood rule Cairo and Ankara strengthened political and economic ties and coordinated their response to regional crises such as the Syrian conflict and the Middle East peace process. Under Morsi Egypt concluded 25 cooperation agreements with Turkey.

Egypt is not the only country to condemn Erdogan’s latest outburst. The United Arab Emirates accused Turkey’s president of “irresponsible and blatant interference in the internal affairs” of Egypt.

The Arab League has also criticised Erdogan’s attempts to interfere in Egyptiam affairs.

Ankara’s behaviour may well see Turkey become more isolated regionally, said a diplomat speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, but this is unlikely to halt Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

“These are the policies that helped his political party win in the first place, and helped Erdogan succeed in August’s presidential elections. His party will face a general election in the middle of next year and Erdogan is unlikely to change policies that are perceived as playing well with the Turkish public and as vote winners.”

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