Skip to main content

Egypt declares Turkish envoy unwelcome -- Turkey responds in kind

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN
November 24, 2013 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
A portrait of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is seen through a Turkish flag during a rally in Istanbul in August.
A portrait of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is seen through a Turkish flag during a rally in Istanbul in August.
  • Egypt asked Turkey's ambassador to leave Saturday
  • Turkish media said Egypt attributed the move to Ankara's interference in its affairs
  • The Turkish government later declared Egypt's former ambassador unwelcome
  • The move follows a worsening in relations since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsy

(CNN) -- The Turkish and Egyptian governments engaged in a round of tit-for-tat diplomacy Saturday, with Egypt first expelling Ankara's ambassador and Turkey reciprocating.

Cairo blamed its decision to declare Turkish Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali "persona non grata" -- or unwelcome -- on Ankara's interference in its domestic affairs, Turkey's Anadolu Agency news outlet said.

Turkey accused Egypt of not respecting "the will of the people," downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Cairo, and declared its ambassador unwelcome. Cairo had lowered its diplomatic representation in Turkey to the level of charge d'affaires and withdrew its ambassador in August.

The diplomatic spat is the latest sign of a worsening relationship between the two nations and one that an analyst said vividly illustrated Turkey's "growing isolation in the Middle East."

The relationship between the countries went sour after the Egyptian military in July ousted President Mohamed Morsy and his government.

Morsy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, had close ties with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

After it toppled Morsy, Egypt banned the brotherhood's activities and froze its finances.

Erdogan -- who was accorded a hero's welcome when he visited post-revolution Cairo in late 2011 -- has spoken out strongly against Egypt's post-Morsy leadership.

Muslim Brotherhood ban upheld
Egypt on a 'proper path' to democracy?
Mohamed Morsy trial halted by chanting

Read more: Egypt's war of symbols

Fadi Hakura from the London think-tank Chatham House told CNN that Saturday's events were "a vivid illustration of Turkey's growing isolation in the Middle East."

"There's a perception gaining ground in the region that the Turkish government is allied to the Muslim Brotherhood and that its foreign policy is defined by sectarian priorities," Hakura said.

"Turkey has tense relations with Israel, the neighboring countries -- Iran, Syria and Iraq -- the majority of the Gulf Arab states and Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan," he said.

Hakura said U.S. President Barack Obama also was deeply unhappy with Turkish foreign policy in the region.

"Since early August there has been no telephone contact between the U.S. President and Turkish Prime Minister and that's a reflection in part with Turkey's deepening isolation in the Middle East and also frustration in Ankara at Obama's reluctance to get involved in the conflict in Syria," he said.

Hakura said while tensions between Cairo and Ankara would not have a major impact on Turkish-U.S. relations, "what these events do is reduce the importance of Turkey to U.S. foreign policy calculations."

It is a shift from 2012, when Erdogan told an audience at his party conference -- that included then-President Morsy -- that Turkey was a role model for regional democratic Islamist movements in the wake of the Arab Spring.

"This understating that we have put forth has gone beyond our borders and has practically become an example to all Muslim countries," Erdogan said.

Last month Suat Kiniklioglu, a former lawmaker from Erdogan's AKP party, also warned that Turkey needed to reprioritize its foreign policy objectives in the Middle East after suffering serious setbacks in the region in recent months.

"Egypt is a key actor in the Middle East. There is a clear need to calibrate the language directed at Cairo, as well," Kiniklioglu wrote in the English language Today's Zaman newspaper.

"The falling out with Israel, the Arab Spring and especially the civil war in Syria have radically altered Turkey's position in the region," he said. "The coup in Egypt has added insult to injury. Consequently, Turkey is confronted with significant challenges on all fronts in the region."

CNN's Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Visit CNN Arabic for full election news and updates in Arabic.
May 26, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
CNN's Reza Sayah explains Egypt's presidential election.
May 26, 2014 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
Minute changes by Egypt's next leader may not be sufficient to bring genuine stability, writes H.A. Hellyer.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0359 GMT (1159 HKT)
Supporters of Egyptian leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi (portrait) attend a campaign meeting in Cairo.
Both presidential candidates have made lofty promises. But has either offered specifics on how the economy?
June 8, 2014 -- Updated 0806 GMT (1606 HKT)
CNN's Reza Sayah profiles the leading contender in Egypt's presidential election, ex army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0809 GMT (1609 HKT)
Hamdeen Sabahi is considered a heavy underdog in the race for Egypt's presidency, but he's sure he's going to win.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
A court in Cairo sentences ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to three years in prison for embezzlement.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
An Egyptian man waits for tourists to take them on camel rides at the Giza pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo on February 14, 2011.
Instead of focusing on antiquities, Egypt's new "We miss you" video features dancers, malls and ritzy hotels.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
Former Arab League head Amre Moussa says presidential favorite Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is right to stand up to "terrorists."
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Can music heal the rift of revolution and conflict in Egypt? CNN's Reza Sayah meets the Egyptian band trying.
May 6, 2014 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
Egypt's former military chief doesn't mince words when he describes what would happen if he wins the presidency.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
Are threats of sexual violence an everyday reality for women in Cairo?
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour sends letter to the family of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
March 9, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Sara Sidner talks about stepping in for Al Jazeera reporters since they have been barred from working in Egypt.
March 15, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
How are the Arab Spring nations faring? What successes can they boast and what challenges await?