Egypt, Turkey Relations DeteriorateSeptember 30, 2014 in Egypt, Turkey
30 September– In the face of rapidly deteriorating relations between Egypt and Turkey, calls are emerging for a boycott of Turkish goods after Turkey’s president, Recip Tayyip, Erdogan questioned the legitimacy of the Egyptian government at two international in one week.
The unravelling of diplomatic ties between Egypt and Turkey began shortly after the popular overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, led by current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013. Prior to Morsi’s overthrow, relations between Egypt and Turkey were strong. The nations coordinated in response to the Syrian conflict and the Middle East peace process, and Cairo and Ankara also signed over 25 bilateral cooperation agreements.
Since the Morsi’s overthrow in overthrow, Egyptian security forces have conducted a fierce crackdown on Morsi’s political group, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Erdogan has been unabashedly supportive of Morsi and the MB, which was declared a terrorist organisation in Egypt in December 2013. In November 2013, Egypt and Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties as both countries expelled the other’s ambassador, labelling them “persona non-grata.” Sisi was elected president of Egypt in June 2014.
Harsh Words at UNGA, WEF
Diplomatic relations reached a new low at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. On Wednesday, the Turkish delegation reportedly boycotted a speech by the Egyptian president. Hours later, Erdogan used a portion of his time at the lectern to condemn the Egyptian government and appeal to the UN, “The United Nations as well as the democratic countries have done nothing but watch the events such as overthrowing the elected president in Egypt and the killings of thousands of innocent people who want to defend their choice. And the person who carried out this coup is being legitimized.” He added, “If we defend democracy, then let’s respect the ballot box. If we will defend those who come to power not with democracy but with a coup then I wonder why this U.N. exists.”
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning Erdogan’s comments: “There is no doubt that the fabrication of such lies and fabrications are not something strange that comes from the Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations.”
Four days later, as the keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan recast his aspersions of Egypt’s government. He emphasised that the “coup is legitimised by the international community,” and asked attendees at the WEF “Is the UN the place where people who plot coups speak?”
By Monday, the Egyptian foreign released another statement that claiming that Erdogan is “not in a position to give lessons to others about democracy and respect for human rights and appoint himself the guardian of them.” The statement adds that Erdogan “did not hesitate to change the political system… and change the Turkish constitution in order to continue in power for ten years to come,” and this “cannot be described as the behaviour of democrats”.
Calls for Boycott
Tarek Mahmoud, Secretary General for the Coalition to Support the Tahya Masr Fund, has called for the closure of Turkish cultural centres in Cairo and Alexandria, citing that Turkish cultural centres are a “threat to national security.” The coalition will also boycott all companies affiliated with Turkey. Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabri filed a lawsuit last week to force the Egyptian government to ban the entry of Turkish products into the country. A court is expected to rule on the case on 2 December.
Others calling for the boycott of Turkish products, or the boycott of Turkey as a travel destination include television anchor and writer Gamal Anayet; political analyst Michel Fahmi; Bassem Halaqa, head of Egypt’s Tourist Guides Union; writer Reem Eid; and members of the Congress Party founded by former Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa.
Many regional governments have spoken out about Erdogan’s comments. The United Arab Emirates said Erdogan’s UN speech was “unacceptable and contradicts diplomatic norms.” This was echoed by Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil El-Araby, who called Erdogan’s comments “interference of internal Arab affairs.” Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam of Lebanon announced Sunday he would like to mediate between Erdoğan and Sisi to heal the rift, adding “I hope such a mediation could be done.”
To some extent, nations in the Middle East appear to have taken sides based on support or opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the face of increasing security threats across the region, political infighting could be detrimental to attempts to combat terrorist threats such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and Al Qaeda threats across the Gulf and the Maghreb.