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Turkey and Egypt expel envoys

November 23, 2013

Turkey has declared Egypt’s ambassador "persona non grata." Earlier Saturday, Egypt expelled Turkey's ambassador from Cairo after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had protested the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

Turkey's Prime Minister and leader of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Tayyip Erdogan (R) and his guest Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi greet the audience during AK Party congress in Ankara September 30, 2012. Erdogan trumpeted Turkey's credentials as a rising democratic power on Sunday, saying his Islamist-rooted ruling party had become an example to the Muslim world after a decade in charge. Addressing thousands of party members and regional leaders at a congress of his Justice and Development (AK) Party, Erdogan said the era of military coups in the nation of 75 million people was over. REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer/Prime Minister's Press Office/Handout (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Tayyip Erdogan und Mohammed MursiImage: Reuters

Egypt's decision on Saturday to downgrade relations with Turkey and expel the country's ambassador, Hussein Awni Botsala, from Cairo led to an escalation in diplomatic exchanges between the two countries.

Tensions have mounted since the summer, after a military coup ousted the Islamist Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (left in picture), of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and his Justice and Development party have quite vocally protested.

"[Turkey's] 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 offense to the popular will," the Foreign Ministry said.

Turkey then expelled Egypt's ambassador, who had not resided in Ankara since August. The decisions represent a dramatic reversal of the relations between the two countries, which had warmed over the past year. Both countries will remain represented in each other's capitals by embassies headed by a charge d'affaires, effectively the second in command.

'Bonds of brotherhood'

Turkey's ruling party backed Morsi as an example for the Arab world of a democratically elected Islamist leader. Over the summer, Turkey criticized Morsi's popularly backed July 3 overthrow by Egypt's military, while also criticizing the international community for what it deemed as a weak response to the coup.

"The deep-rooted ties and bonds of brotherhood between the people of Turkey and Egypt will remain," Turkey's Foreign Ministry announced. "We hope that stability and democracy in Egypt is restored as soon as possible and that relations between the two countries are normalized."

The Turkish president became the first to visit Egypt after the fall of the autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Trade between the two countries increased by about 27 percent in the following year to $3.8 billion (2.8 billion euros) in the first nine months of 2012, with Turkey also increasing its investments in Egypt to currently having 26 development projects there.

Not without precedent

Egypt expelled the ambassador after Erdogan renewed criticism of the government, dismissing the trial of Morsion charges of inciting the slaughter of his opponents while in office and describing a crackdown on the former president's supporters as a "humanitarian drama." Erdogan had previously called for the trial of Egypt's new leaders for an August 14 crackdown in which the country's security forces stormed into pro-Morsi camps, killing hundreds.

Turkey and Egypt previously recalled their ambassadors in August after the former initially condemned Morsi's ouster and the subsequent bloody crackdown on protests against the military-backed interim government. Egypt never returned Ambassador Abderahman Salah El-Din to Ankara, though Turkey's envoy returned to Cairo weeks later.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he hoped the two country's relations "will be restored soon."

mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)