Egypt-Turkey spat continues as Cairo calls Erdogan's latest attack 'desperate'

Dina Samak , Thursday 2 Oct 2014

Diplomatic back-and-forth escalates, despite business and tourism remaining unaffected

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

The diplomatic war of words between Egypt and Turkey continues as the Egyptian ‎foreign ministry issued a statement early Thursday describing the Turkish prime ‎minister's statements about Egypt as "desperate". ‎

‎In a speech to Turkish parliament on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country stands against all forms of discrimination and has adopted a "totally humane, consistent attitude towards countries like Egypt, where the democratic demands of citizens are oppressed with methods supported by a military coup".

Egypt's foreign ministry said on Thursday it has "monitored" Erdogan's "latest insulting comments," which it called a sign of Turkey's "desperation" over Egypt's achievements in domestic stability and openness to the world, as well as its contributions to regional stability.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have deteriorated since the July 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi – which Erdogan has labelled a coup.

He has also criticised the world's "inaction" towards the ‎Egyptian government's crackdown on Islamists in which hundreds have been killed ‎and thousands jailed.‎

But the feud intensified last week, when Erdogan – speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York – asked whether the global summit was a place where those who "plot coups" are allowed to speak – an attack on Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

In response, Egypt's foreign ministry cancelled a bilateral meeting – which Turkey denied having agreed to.

Then, on Sunday this week, Erdogan once again took aim at El-Sisi, this time at the World Economic Forum in Istanbul.

‎"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 was defence minister at the time of Morsi's popularly-backed removal.

Egypt's foreign ministry hit back, insisting that Erdogan had shifted Turkey's political system from a presidential to a parliamentary one and had changed the constitution to "stay in power for another 10 years."

It also criticised Erdogan's restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, among other human rights violations, arguing that he wasn't in a position to give "lessons to others".

Turkey, for its part, said that Egypt "doesn't have any consideration for basic democratic rights" and that its "claims and allegations cannot be accepted or taken seriously".

The Turkish foreign ministry also said that "the principle of non-‎interference in states' internal affairs cannot be used as a means to legitimise human ‎rights violations."‎

The acid statements and diplomatic actions are a step up from November 2013, when Egypt and Turkey dismissed each other's ambassadors and downgraded their diplomatic relations.

The latest spat has caused political figures in Egypt to call for boycotting Turkish products. However, Said Abdullah, a senior official in the ministry of trade, told Turkey's state news agency Anadolu ‎that Egypt is not considering the cancellation of a maritime transport deal ‎signed by both countries under Morsi.

The agreement ‎facilitates the passage of Turkish cargo through Egypt to markets in the Gulf.‎

Turkish exports to Egypt fell by 11.6 percent in the first seven months of 2014, down ‎from $1.9 billion to $1.7 billion, according to the Turkish ministry of customs ‎and trade.‎

Despite trade and tourism being unaffected, ‎it seems that the feud is only the tip of the iceberg.

Commenting on ‎Erdogan's fierce criticism at the UN, El-Sisi asked his supporters to be patient:

"When older kids used to beat me at school, I would say that when I grow up, I ‎will beat you back."‎

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