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Turkey Has Role to Play in Egypt

Turkey could be well-positioned to assist Egypt’s democratic transition, if it can shift its role from partisan to mediator.
A boy balances a poster of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi on his bicycle during a pro-Islamist demonstration in Istanbul July 1, 2013. Pro-Islamist groups held a demonstration in Istanbul in support of Mursi on Tuesday. Egypt's armed forces handed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi a virtual ultimatum to share power on Monday, giving feuding politicians 48 hours to compromise or have the army impose its own road map for the country. The slogan on the poster reads, " We will not let you victimise him". REUTER

On July 9, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador over Ankara's calls for UN intervention in Egypt, following the controversial ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. The sharp deterioration in the relationship between the two nations could not be more different than the warmth Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received on his visit to Cairo in September 2011. The hero’s welcome Erdogan received — which came only a few months after Egypt’s revolution against former President Hosni Mubarak — stemmed mainly from his ability to present the Egyptian public with a possible third way for politics, which was distant from the traditional fight between the generals and the Islamists. Many in Egypt viewed Erdogan as the man who stood against the military, and also offered the right balance between Islam and politics.

In post-Mubarak Egypt non-Islamist Egyptians trusted neither the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) nor the Muslim Brotherhood. The SCAF was perceived as autocrats who ruined the Egyptian transition to democracy, while the Brotherhood was viewed as an illiberal cult wanting to play a democratic game for their majoritarian domination. Erdogan, somehow, managed to convince Egyptians that he had the answer to their problem. Here he was, a Muslim and a civilian democrat who boldly told Islamists, “One must not be afraid of secularism.” Ironically, Egyptian non-Islamists are not exactly secular but they are against the domination of Islamism, and they wrongly assumed that Erdogan is their man.

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