Egypt condemns Erdogan's 'lies and exaggerations' about El-Sisi

Ahram Online , Monday 29 Sep 2014

Turkey's president speaks out against Egypt's leader for the second time in a week - drawing sharp response from foreign ministry

Sisi and Erdogan
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's foreign ministry has condemned another round of attacks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the country's democratic transition following last year's political upheaval, calling the accusations a "series of lies and exaggerations."

In a statement posted on the ministry's Facebook page early Monday, Egypt said that Erdogan is not in a position that allows him to "give lessons to others" about democracy and respect of human rights.

"Followers of Turkey's internal politics throughout the last 12 years will conclude that Erdogan – who claims to be defending democracy and the Arab Spring revolutions – has a record that is quite far from real democracy," the statement said.

In his speech at a World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan indirectly attacked Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi – the second time in a week that the Turkish president has taken aim at Egypt's leader.

"Unfortunately, we see that in one country where the will of the people manifested itself, those who were elected with 52 percent of the vote are toppled by one of the ministers of the cabinet," Erdogan said.

El-Sisi, who was defence minister at the time of Morsi's ouster, agreed with other political and religious figures to remove the Islamist president from office amid mass protests against his turbulent one-year rule.

"That coup is accepted and legitimised by the rest of the world, including countries which are governed with democracy," claimed the Turkish president.

Cairo hit back at the comments, however, insisting that Erdogan, Ankara's ex-premier, has shifted Turkey's political system from a presidential to a parliamentary one and changed the constitution in order to "stay in power for another 10 years."

"This cannot be described as democratic behaviour," asserted the statement, while also calling attention to Erdogan's "imposed restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly" as well as "excessive use of force" against political activists and peaceful protesters.

The statement also touched on "discrimination against Kurds" in Turkey and Erdogan's alleged interference in the judiciary, events that the ministry says have also been discussed by international organisations like the European Union.

It also accused Erdogan of supporting terrorist movements to "spread chaos and harm the interests of the people" in the Middle East, pointing to what it said were "Turkey's direct connections with movements in Libya, Syria and Iraq."

The ministry called on the international community and the United Nations to take action over such a "threat to international peace and security."

The statement concluded by stressing the "historical and blood ties" between the people of Egypt and Turkey, adding that the current feud is solely with Turkey's current government.

Last week, Erdogan used his speech at the United Nation's 69th General Assembly in New York to question El-Sisi's democratic credibility and presence at the gathering of world leaders.

"Is the UN the place where people who plot coups speak? Or is it a platform where democratically elected people speak? Or is it a place where people from autocratic regimes speak?" said the ex-leader of Turkey's ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party.

"If everybody comes to speak, then it's another story. But I don't like to be in the same picture where people come to power through anti-democratic means," Erdogan concluded.

Relations between Egypt and Turkey have deteriorated since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following last year's 30 June protests.

The Turkish leader has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of Morsi's overthrow, repeatedly slamming it as a "coup" and criticising the world's "inaction" towards the Egyptian government's crackdown on Islamists in which hundreds have been killed and thousands jailed.

However, Erdogan's recent comments have driven the two countries – historically linked for centuries – further apart.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shouky cancelled a bilateral meeting that the ministry said had been requested by Turkey to discuss the strained relations – while an advisor to the Turkish president denied that the countries' leaders were planning to meet at all.

In an interview with the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, Shoukry said that Erdogan's statements proved that Turkey supports the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, and shows his readiness to host members of the Islamic group – officially declared last December a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities.

The United Arab Emirates also took Erdogan to task for his speech. A statement posted on the UAE's foreign ministry's website called his UN speech a "direct and blatant" intervention in Egypt's internal affairs.

The UAE – a close ally and major financial backer of El-Sisi's government – said that Erdogan exploited the platform at the UN for an "unacceptable" attack on legitimacy in Egypt.

For his part, El-Sisi avoided direct engagement with Erdogan's comments.

Speaking with a local media delegation on his New York trip, the Egyptian president said he would not "reply to those who offend [him]," taking into account his country's interests.

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