London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt downgraded its relations with Ankara on Saturday, expelling the Turkish ambassador to Cairo in response to “provocative” statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Egypt’s foreign ministry announced that relations with Turkey will be lowered to the level of chargé d’affaires, blaming Ankara’s continued “interference” in its domestic affairs.
Egypt has already recalled its own ambassador to Turkey back to Cairo, foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty announced on Saturday.
He said: “Turkey has attempted to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests [and] supported meetings of organizations that seek to create instability in the country,” a likely reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey has been one of the strongest critics of the July 3 ouster of Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, describing his removal as an “unacceptable coup.” The Turkish prime minister has also often been photographed flashing the four-fingered Rabaa salute—a hand sign taken up by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the wake of a military crackdown against pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo.
Egypt took the latest decision to downgrade relations with Turkey following a speech by Erdoğan in which he explicitly called for Mursi’s release.
Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman accused Ankara of “offending the will of the people in Egypt” by issuing statements “aimed to incite the international community against Egypt’s interests.”
Responding to Egypt’s decision, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman announced that Ankara would take “reciprocal steps” in the coming hours, although Cairo had previously announced that it would be recalling its ambassador of its own accord.
However, Turkish President Abdullah Gül sought to play down the diplomatic dispute. Speaking live on state-run TRT television, he said: “I hope our relations will again get back on track.”
Gül stressed that the current dispute comes as part of an “extraordinary period” in Turkish–Egyptian relations, expressing hope that the downgrade of diplomatic relations is a temporary measure.
“Turkey and Egypt are like two halves of one apple in the Mediterranean,” he said.
For his part, Turkish media reported that Turkey’s recalled ambassador to Cairo, Hüseyin Avni Botsalı, said he would continue to pray for Egypt.
“The Turkish and Egyptian people are brothers. I will continue praying for the good of Egypt. Egypt is very important,” Botsalı said, adding that it was paramount for the region and world that Egypt remain “democratic.”