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Egypt issues demands to end tension with Turkey

Cairo officials say Ankara must stop 'pestering' Egypt if they wish for normal relations to resume

Dina Ezzat , Monday 25 Nov 2013
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Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian authorities conveyed their desire for crisis containment to Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who also reassured senior officials in Cairo of Turkey's commitment to non-interference, according to a highly informed official source Monday.

“The role Turkish President Abdullah Gul is playing in helping cement Turkish-Egyptian relations is instrumental, and is highly appreciated in Cairo. However, we have to be clear that we are deeply dismayed at the position of the Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyep Erdogan], which we told the President,” said the official source.

The relationship between Gul and officials in Cairo has helped “a great deal in managing the situation,” since tension began following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, the source added. 

“From the start, Gul and Erdogan did not see eye to eye on developments in Egypt. However, when we summoned back our ambassador from Turkey, he returned with a message of reassurance from Gul.”

“Gul is not alone in his disagreement with Erdogan's stance in Ankara. There are many voices, not just from the opposition, but also from within the government itself and the foreign ministry, who has advised the Turkish Prime Minister to revisit his line on Egypt,” the official continued.

Speaking from Ankara, a Turkish diplomat said, “We knew Erdogan would express concern over the way in which president Morsi was ousted, but we also maintain that the official position should not have ignored the massive popular demonstrations of 30 June.

Both Egyptian and Turkish officials recognise there are certain requirements Egypt has suggested to help rectify relations with Turkey, which were downgraded on Saturday from ambassadorial level to charge d’affaires.

The first demand, according to Cairo officials, is for Turkey to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar in collating evidence to forward to the International Criminal Court, seeking to prove the 14 August sit-in dispersals by security forces in Cairo and Giza amount to a crime against humanity.

Egypt is not subject to ICC regulations and is “confident” that neither the Security Council nor the prosecutor-general of the ICC would start such a case anyhow, the Cairo official continued.

This said, Cairo is “furious” that the Muslim Brotherhood “is working with Turkey and Qatar” with regards this matter in the first place.

The Egyptian decision to dispel the Turkish ambassador - summoned for consultation following the ouster of Morsi - was prompted by a meeting in Ankara last week. Initially, the Turkish ambassador was sent back, which was not reciprocated by Egypt, who never sent its ambassador back after a similar recall for consultation.

The official added that Egypt also demands that Turkey stops hosting meetings for the Muslim Brotherhood that seek "to destabilise the interim phase, or force civil strife to help serve the political interests of the Brotherhood.” 

In addition, Egypt demands an end to the “aggressive statements of the Turkish Prime Minister against Egypt, and his glorification of the Muslim Brotherhood and Rabaa.”

Erdogan first made the four-finger Rabaa solidarity sign during a speech in Turkey following the dispersal of the sit-ins last August, and has defended the Brotherhood in subsequent statements.

These demands, according to Egyptian officials, are an indication that Egypt desires to end the state of hostility with Turkey.

“We regret that things have taken this turn, but it was not our choice. We have always avoided interference in Turkish internal affairs and have never made remarks about Turkey’s abuse of the rights of the Kurds, for example, which we could also criticise them for,” said a senior official.

The official added that Turkish President Gul has been reassured that the interests of Turkey in Egypt - business, cultural and others - would be protected, provided no further escalation is pursued and "Mr Erdogan ends his war of hostilities against Egypt.”

Egyptian and Turkish sources maintain there is no plan “at least for now” to return a billion dollar deposit from Turkey to the Central Bank during the rule of Morsi to boost foreign currency reserves.

Gul, the source added, did not promise to accommodate Egypt's demands, but said he would support the best interests of positive bilateral relations.

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