Saturday, November 23, 2013

Egypt: Government Expells Turkish Ambassador, Ankara Responds in Kind

According to Reuters, Egypt said on Saturday (November 23) that has expelled Turkey's ambassador and accused Ankara of backing organizations bent on undermining the country, an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

Turkey, which had forged close ties with Egypt under Morsi, responded by declaring the Egyptian ambassador, currently out of the country, persona non grata.

Turkey has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Morsi's removal, calling it an "unacceptable coup." Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests calling for his reinstatement, has close ties with Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party.

"(Ankara is) ... attempting to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests, supported meetings of organizations that seek to create instability in the country," Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdelatty said, in explaining why the Turkish ambassador had been asked to leave.

Both countries will remain represented in each other's capitals by embassies headed by a charge d'affaires, often described as a deputy chief of mission.

COMMENT: Both had recalled their ambassadors in August 2013 for consultation after Egyptian security forces stormed into pro-Morsi camps on August 14, killing hundreds.

In some of the worst civilian violence in decades, security forces crushed protests by Morsi's supporters. Militant Islamists, who have been attacking Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula, stepped up their assaults in or near major cities.

Qatar, once a major ally to Egypt under Morsi which lent or gave Egypt $7.5 billion, condemned the security forces crackdown against the Brotherhood in August. Egypt described the statement as an interference in its affairs.

In September, Egypt returned a $2 billion Qatari deposit with its central bank after talks to convert the funds into three-year bonds broke down.

On another front, Egypt is seeking to diversify its sources of military equipment and is even warming to Russia after the United States decided in October to curb military aid to Egypt pending progress on democracy and human rights.

Earlier this month Egypt's defense minister hailed a new era of defense cooperation with Moscow after a historic visit by Russia's defense and foreign ministers to Egypt. The two countries have yet to announce any major deals.

I continue to urge foreign travelers to engage in only ESSENTIAL travel to Egypt, as it remains uncertain as to what parts of Egypt will be effected in political unrest and continued demonstrations.