After Egypt announced the expulsion of Turkey’s diplomat to Egypt on the basis of ‘persona non grata’, Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by flashing the Rabia sign.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flashed the Rabia sign in protest against Egypt after the Turkish ambassador was expelled from Cairo on Saturday.
The four-finger salute, which has become of symbol of resistance against Egypt’s post-coup interim government following the ousting of the elected president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, is a demonstration of solidarity with the hundreds of protesters who were massacred by the Egyptian army in Cairo’s Rabia al-Adawiyya and Nahda Squares on August 14.
On raising the Rabia sign in front of crowds of supporters in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Erdogan said ‘This is also a station for Rabia, this town square is also Rabia.’
New York Times also reported that Egypt announced on Saturday that it was downgrading its diplomatic relations with Turkey and expelled the Turkish ambassador because of “provocative” criticisms of Cairo by Turkey’s prime minister, a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign minister said.
Egypt also said that its ambassador to Turkey, who was withdrawn in August, would be permanently recalled, all but severing relations with a regional heavyweight that had been one of Egypt’s most prominent allies before the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last July.
In retaliation, Turkey declared the absent Egyptian ambassador “persona non grata” and also downgraded diplomatic relations. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was unapologetic, calling Egypt’s government a “pro-coup administration” and saying “we never respect those who do not respect people’s right to sovereignty.” Ties between the two countries had been fraying for months. Mr. Erdogan had cultivated a strong relationship with Mr. Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, as part of Mr. Erdogan’s wider bid for regional leadership anchored by support for Islamist allies.
After Mr. Morsi’s ouster and arrest by the military, Mr. Erdogan became one of the most vocal foreign critics of the crackdown on the Brotherhood, angering Egyptian officials by expressing solidarity with protesters and criticizing the arrests of senior Brotherhood leaders.
Mr. Erdogan’s comments on Thursday were the last straw, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Badr Abdel Aty, citing statements in support of Mr. Morsi and his criticism of the former president’s trial on murder charges.
Egypt said it was not completely severing ties between the countries, but downgrading the relationship to the level of chargé d’affaires. It was a further sign of the country’s rapidly shifting foreign policy since the military takeover, as officials have pursued new alliances and lashed out at old friends who have voiced any criticism.
Egypt’s relations with the United States, its closest Western ally, were troubled for months after the Obama administration spoke out against the violent suppression of Mr. Morsi’s supporters, including the killing of hundreds of protesters by Egypt’s security services.
The frosty relations led Cairo to rekindle a friendship with Russia, in what was seen as a swipe at the United States. Egypt’s isolation has further eased, as the Obama administration’s own internal feuds about its Egypt policy have come out into the open. In a departure from the administration’s earlier, critical statements, Secretary of State John Kerry has taken to flattering Egypt’s interim leaders and denigrating the Brotherhood.
For Turkey, the diplomatic turnabout was further evidence of Mr. Erdogan’s faltering bid for regional influence that relied on cementing alliances with Islamist movements, including those in Libya, Syria and Egypt. As Syria and Libya descend further into chaos and with the Brotherhood swept from power, Turkish officials seem to have shifted to a more pragmatic approach focused on economic interests, and more in line with the government’s long-held policy of “zero problems” with neighbors.
Mr. Erdogan, though, who has made his opposition to what he calls the “coup” against Mr. Morsi a personal crusade, has been in no mood to mend fences with Egypt. On Thursday, in the comments that caused the diplomatic break, Mr. Erdogan hailed Mr. Morsi as a “real democrat” and denounced the interim rulers, saying they had no respect for “people’s sovereignty.”
“All should have stood up against what has happened to Mr. Morsi, but they didn’t,” he said.
For New York Times article: Kareem Fahim reported from Cairo, and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.