Turkey and Egypt have canceled naval military drills and recalled their ambassadors amid strongly worded criticisms by Turkish leaders in the wake of the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi and a subsequent brutal crackdown on his supporters which left hundreds dead. A Turkish journalist working for state television TRT, who was detained at a Cairo mosque by Egyptian security forces along with pro-Morsi demonstrators, was also still in custody as of Sunday afternoon, further straining ties.
Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül were due to meet on Sunday for talks on Egypt but the meeting was postponed to Thursday. There was no statement as to why the meeting was put off at the last minute.
“Turkey demonstrated a hostile attitude, not only by its statements but also by the actions it took at the international level,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was quoted as saying in an interview with Egypt’s state television on the private CNN Türk television website. He said the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) ideology is to be blamed for such an attitude.
“Turkey’s stance on Egypt is related to the AK Party’s ideology and its miscalculations on the Arab revolution. I can understand that the situation in Egypt is different but double standards and an external intervention cannot be accepted,” Fahmy said, underlining that Egypt will not let Turkey intervene in its internal affairs.
Known for its close relationship with Morsi, Erdoğan’s AK Party described the Egyptian military intervention that toppled him as an unacceptable coup and tried to convince other countries to step up their pressure on Egypt.
Morsi had earlier attended the AK Party congress in Ankara held in late September — a visit considered as a sign of flourishing relations between Turkey and Egypt.
As Turkey’s relations with the biggest Arab country deteriorated sharply in the wake of the July 3 coup, diplomatic and military ties have received a heavy blow. On Friday, the two countries announced that military naval drills planned for October had been scrapped, although there were disagreements over who canceled them first. Both countries claimed to have made the decision, with Cairo saying it had pulled out in protest of Turkey’s “clear interference” in Egypt’s domestic affairs. Egypt said its decision was a “protest against the unacceptable Turkish statements and actions which represent a clear interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs and stand against the will of the Egyptian people.”
Levent Gümrükçü, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, however, said on his Twitter account that it was Turkey that scrapped the drills, saying Ankara informed both Egypt and NATO that that it decided to cancel the bilateral naval exercise as well as another one within NATO.
The decision to scrap the naval exercise came a day after Ankara announced on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website that it was recalling its ambassador, Hüseyin Avni Botsali, from Cairo on Thursday. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry decided to recall Egypt’s ambassador in Ankara, Abdel Rahman Salah, for consultations on the same day.
About 600 people were killed in the violence that erupted in Egypt on Wednesday when security forces broke up pro-Morsi protest camps, the worst unrest in the country since the 2011 uprising that unseated long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of demonstrators across Turkey have staged protests against the bloody crackdown, waving portraits of Morsi and chanting “Infidels are killing Muslims!”
Erdoğan: Sisi and al-Assad no different from one another
In one of his harshest remarks targeting the Egyptian military and the new administration installed by the military, Erdoğan said on Saturday that there is “state terrorism” in Egypt. He also likened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of an urban transformation project in Bursa’s Yıldırım district, Erdoğan blamed the interim government in Egypt for the bloody incidents in the country, which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds since Wednesday, and reiterated his criticism of those who support Egypt’s military intervention. Condemning the attacks on houses of worship, Erdoğan repeated his calls to both the government and supporters of Morsi to show sensitivity.
“Places of worships are sacred, but [the Syrian and Egyptian government] ruined and burned our mosques in Egypt and Syria. There is no difference between Sisi and al-Assad. Those who support them are not any different from them,” Erdoğan maintained.
The prime minister also repeated accusations against the international community for maintaining its silence over the incidents in the Middle East.
“Those who kept their silence while fire was opened on people who want justice, and those who approve and promote these incidents by being silent, have sunk into the blood [of the Egyptians] and can’t face their own consciences,” Erdoğan stated.
Saying that actors who are playing games in Egypt will continue to play their games in other Muslim countries, the prime minister stated that they may also want to intervene in Turkey as they don’t want a powerful Turkey in the region, adding, “We will break this trap.”
Erdoğan criticized foreign countries for remaining silent over the incidents in Egypt and asserted that the countries “that gave $16 billon in support to the coup government in Egypt are the partners of it,” in reference to the Gulf countries.
Pointing out that there are actors both inside and outside of Turkey that have been disturbed by the country paying close attention to Egypt, Erdoğan said: “They want Turkey to be silent; they want Turkey to turn its back on Egypt, to not see what happened as a massacre. … As Turkey speaks, reacts, and voices complaints against the [violations] of rights and justice, [people] are disturbed.”
Touching on the media’s part in the incidents in Egypt, Erdoğan asserted that the media misdirected and falsely reported on the events in the streets of Egypt. He said that while the Muslim Brotherhood tries to protect churches, the international media reported that it had burned 30 of them. He likened the media organizations’ reporting on Egypt to the “Gezi media,” which he accused of provoking the nationwide protests in Turkey.
The Gezi Park protests started as a local reaction against government plans to demolish İstanbul’s Gezi Park and turned into nationwide anti-government protests, which had broad coverage in the international media.
While speaking about Egypt, Erdoğan raised four fingers, flashing the “Rabaa sign,” a symbol of support that comes from the anti-coup protests in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo.