News / Middle East

Turkey Angry Over Morsi Ouster

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen in a February 25, 2013, file photo.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen in a February 25, 2013, file photo.
In recent years Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has extended his country’s influence well beyond its borders. With a booming economy and a foreign policy based on “zero problems” with its neighbors, the Turkish prime minister’s strategy of using soft political and economic power to extend his country’s influence across the Middle East appeared to be a success.
 
But now problems are piling up and some analysts say the post-Arab Spring period is becoming increasingly unnerving for Erdogan and his Turkish allies.
 
The latest problem for Turkey’s ruling Islamist party is the collapse in relations between Cairo and Ankara since the fall of president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected Muslim Brotherhood president and a key ideological ally of the Turkish prime minister. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) served as a role model for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as it engaged in electoral politics.
 
The military ouster of Morsi on July 3 has undermined what was emerging as one of the strongest partnerships of the post-Arab Spring period. “Egypt, a core Arab country, was considered a main pillar in Turkey’s regional strategy to project both its Islamist ideology and its political influence,” according to former senior Arab League official Nassif Hitti.
 
The close ties between Cairo and Ankara are now over. On July 30 - for the second time this month - Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned Turkey’s ambassador to complain about Turkish interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs.
 
The immediate cause of Egyptian wrath, experts believe, is the harsh non-stop criticism by Turkish leaders condemning Morsi’s ouster, which they insist was a coup and not the expression of the popular will of the people. Erdogan has delivered more than a dozen speeches slamming the military overthrow of Morsi and has demanded the ousted Egyptian president’s release from captivity.
 
Earlier this week Erdogan lashed out at the West for a “weak response” to the killing in Cairo earlier this month of several dozen pro-Morsi demonstrators. Brotherhood members hold the security forces responsible for their deaths. “Those who remain silent when Egyptians' national will was massacred now remain silent again as the Egyptian people are being slaughtered,” he said. “I'm asking where is Europe, and what happened to European values? Where are those who go around giving lessons in democracy everywhere?
 
Some Western commentators argue that Erdogan’s attacks on the West are partly payback for the strongly worded American and European criticism of the tough suppression of the recent popular demonstrations against the AKP at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in which half a dozen protesters were killed
 
But Hitti believes Erdogan’s ferocity is more an expression of his frustration with the problems besieging Turkey and at the upending of a strategy that was bearing fruit and allowing Ankara’s regional clout to increase. “The ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt resulted in both a strategic and an ideological blow to Turkey,” he argues.
 
More regional problems
 
The clash with Egypt comes at a bad time for Erdogan and his foreign policy ambitions.The civil war in neighboring Syria is encouraging Syrian Kurds to plan for an autonomous Kurdish state in northeastern Syria. Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population of its own, worries hard-line Turkish-Kurdish separatists, may as a consequence try to derail Ankara’s efforts to conclude a peace deal with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers Party.
 
And at home, Erdogan has faced challenges and widespread criticism for his handling of the Gezi Park protests.
 
Until Morsi’s fall, the AKP-ruled Turkey appeared to be one of the big winners of the Arab Spring. Emboldened Islamists across the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya and Tunisia, looked to Turkey as an example - a country run by Islamists but also democratic at the same time. That, in turn, extended Turkish influence.
 
Trade ties extended influence
 
Erdogan’s government has also been astute in mixing politics and business. Post-Gadhafi Libya was a prime example of that with Turkish companies eager to play a big role in any rebuilding of the country.
 
More than 3,000 Turkish nationals evacuated Libya when the uprising against Col. Moammar Gadhafi erupted in February 2011, and the Libyan debt owed to about 100 Turkish firms was estimated at $20 million. The Ankara government mounted a concerted campaign to get its businessmen, mostly in the construction sector, to be paid ahead of those from other countries and it worked.
 
In testimony to emerging Turkish power, Libya paid this year about half the outstanding contract payments owed to Turkish firms, prompting envious praise from Richard Griffiths, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Libya, for Turkey’s smoothness in combining political and business influence. "When there is a delegation or trade show or event, you will always find the largest group are the Turks and frankly they are the ones who are reaping the rewards for it,” he said.
 
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi last September.Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi last September.
x
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi last September.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi last September.
For the AKP, Egypt was a cornerstone partner in its wider foreign policy, something readily admitted by Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who before Morsi’s fall described Egypt as the “spine” of every development in the Middle East.
 
In recognition of Egypt’s importance, Erdogan’s government invested not just politically in the Muslim Brotherhood-run country but financially too, with $2 billion of various forms of assistance as well as $250 million in credit to help Egypt buy Turkish military equipment. The Turkish government signed more than three-dozen cooperation agreements with Egypt ranging from trade to energy, technology to banking.
.
On July 30, Ankara denied reports that it was suspending defense cooperation agreements with Egypt but it isn’t clear that the Egyptian military will want to go ahead with them, if the Erdogan government prolongs its barrage of condemnation of the overthrow of Morsi.
 
Writing in Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper, analyst Mustafa al-Labbad argues that the “new Egyptian rulers consider Turkey to be a regional competitor, not a strategic partner.”
 
The cleavage between Ankara and Cairo is likely to widen, say analysts, if Erdogan continues to upbraid the Egyptian military and elects to confront it rhetorically. This in turn could give Gulf States opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, and keen to shape the post-Arab Spring more to their liking, an opening in Egypt.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs