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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora