For more than a year now, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been breaking all diplomatic customs and political protocols with his extreme enmity towards all that is Egyptian and his clear support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was booted out of power by the Egyptian people. This came to a head with the fierce attack Erdoğan launched on Egypt and its president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, during his speech at the UN General Assembly last week.
He was followed swiftly by new Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said the Egyptian administration’s recent policies indicated it was suffering from an “inferiority complex.”
However, it is Erdoğan’s stance that points to an inferiority complex, rather than an actual set of policies or a real political position of any kind.
The official Turkish line is that Erdoğan’s position on Egypt stems from “democratic principles, international law and human values.” He sees ousted president Mohamed Mursi as the true president, and Sisi as the leader of a nefarious coup and a usurper. Even assuming that “democratic principles” alone—and not hidden agendas—are the prime mover behind Ankara’s policies, does Erdoğan really think he can convince us that Turkish democracy is greater than that of Western countries, which, despite perhaps not agreeing with Egypt’s policies, have not done even 10 percent of what Ankara is doing right now? And what does Erdoğan think of US President Barack Obama’s meeting with Sisi last week? Does he still believe his policies will be able to bring his allies back into power in Cairo?
Ankara has the right to reject or disagree with Cairo’s policies, but it certainly does not have the right, either in terms of basic decency or diplomatic protocol, to attack Egypt in this manner—one that really does not suit a country that claims to be democratic.
The disturbing truth for Erdoğan, his administration and his allies is that none of his policies of escalation towards Egypt have changed the situation on the ground one single iota, nor have they succeeded in rallying Western countries to put pressure on Egypt as he had hoped. More importantly, Egypt is now firmly on its way towards getting its own house in order and completing the political roadmap put in place following the Egyptian people’s revolution of June 30, 2013. Whenever the Egyptians implement a part of this roadmap successfully, it renders Erdoğan’s attacks more irrelevant.
Whenever Erdoğan attacks Egypt he is also, in effect, sending out messages to its allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which he cannot attack directly. Moreover, Egypt’s adherence to diplomatic etiquette following the comments at the UN General Assembly was exemplary, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri replying to the attacks by saying: “Egypt is a great country, we won’t stoop to the level of those who are insignificant.” This was followed by the UAE releasing an official statement condemning Turkish interference in the affairs of any country.
Well, now the ball is firmly in the Arab League’s court: it must also declare an official Arab position rejecting Turkey’s improper behavior.
The Turkish leadership has lost its way completely when it comes to dealing with Egypt’s government and its people. Going against the grain appears to be Ankara’s favorite pastime, because no morals or principles or fundamentals of any kind allow one country to interfere in the affairs of another in this disgraceful manner. Ankara is giving more credence to the idea that it has been embroiled with extremist and terrorist elements daily, from its decision to welcome the Muslim Brotherhood members recently barred from Qatar, to its refusal until now to participate in the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More eyebrows, and more suspicions, were also raised when Turkey freed 49 diplomatic hostages kidnapped by ISIS. Are we seriously to believe that the group freed them without asking for anything in return from Turkey?
No country in the region can afford to cut ties with Egypt since its regional role is so pivotal and nothing can really happen in the Middle East without its involvement. Day after day, Turkey is damaging its reputation and losing respect due to its unending provocations. Erdoğan gained some respect in the Arab world as a result of his domestic economic policies, whose success no one can deny; but this is where it stops—his bullying and his policies against other countries in the region are responsible for that.
Egypt is on its way back to retaining its position and role in the region. Turkey’s clamor, no matter how loud it gets, cannot stop that.