Ankara to blame for Egypt expelling Turkish ambassador

Egypt's decision to expel the Turkish ambassador is a diplomatic failure for Ankara and a direct consequence of the prime minister's misguided regional policies.

al-monitor Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for the UN Security Council to convene quickly and act after what he described as a massacre in Egypt, Ankara, Aug. 15, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bekta.

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turkish-egyptian relations, erdogan, diplomacy, ankara, ambassador, akp

Nov 26, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attitude toward Egypt may please his AKP voters. But the point we have reached with Egypt comes at a time of important developments in the Middle East, as illustrated by the agreement reached with Iran.

However you look at it, for a major Arab country to expel the Turkish ambassador and to minimize diplomatic relations with Turkey is a diplomatic failure.

Turkey had recalled its ambassador from Cairo for consultations as a sign of protest of the Egyptian army’s massacres of the Muslim Brotherhood. At that time, that truly appeared as a principled stance by Turkey. For Egypt to recall its Ankara ambassador in response was an expected, standard reaction.

But when Turkey sent back its ambassador after a short while, Egypt did not respond in kind. This was Cairo’s way of saying, "You were forced to send back your ambassador, but nobody can force us.” Thus, it is Egypt that expelled the Turkish ambassador and lowered the level of relations because of its anger with Prime Minister Erdogan’s remarks.

If Erdogan had been sincere about Egypt, it would have been Turkey that recalled its ambassador and lowered the level of diplomatic relations. Obviously, Turkey’s interests in the region and in Egypt did not permit such a move. That is why Cairo seems to be ahead in the "diplomatic chess game" that Erdogan so detests.

Of course, there are reasons behind Egypt’s confidence in taking this step against Turkey. The primary reason is that no other country in the region except Turkey denounces the Egyptian army for toppling the Muslim Brotherhood.

To the contrary. Led by Saudi Arabia, many Arab countries not only applaud the coup but continue to extend all support to its makers. No doubt, these countries see the latest Egyptian action against Ankara as a principled response to Ankara’s efforts to intervene in internal affairs.

Erdogan, who prefers to ignore all these realities, opts to be angry, not with Saudi Arabia, but with the West for not calling the coup a coup. That is why his anti-West Islamist voters are pleased.

One doesn’t have to be a genius to understand that the West is guided by interests in its foreign relations. Whether we like it or not, that is the basis of international relations. The West, grasping the realities of the Middle East, agreed to get along with the military rule in Egypt.

The United States demonstrated this approach by Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Cairo, when he attributed the country's current situation to defective democracy and understanding by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Russia, which isn’t all that sensitive about democracy, displayed its position by recently sending Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Cairo. With that kind of support behind it, Egypt has no cause to worry about Turkey.

Ankara is again trying to return as an active player to the Middle East, where it has fallen to "precious loneliness” because of its misguided policies, even if it means following in the wake of US policy.

We see this in Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Iraq and Iran. But the severing of ties with a key country of the region means these moves won't result in much progress. No one may adore coup makers, but the world is not yet an ideal place.

Ankara appears sentenced to accrue foreign-policy losses until Erdogan, whose voters may still applaud him, becomes aware of world realities and learns to behave according to interests of Turkey and not of his political party.

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More from  Semih Idiz