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An overview of Turkish-Egyptian relations

January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

Since 1925, when Egypt and Turkey exchanged diplomatic representatives, relations between the two countries have gone back and forth between apathy and warmth.

The relationship, which began at the level of charge d’affaires, was raised to the ambassadorial level in 1948, but the close ties which brought together the family of Muhammad Ali Basha and the Turkish Embassy in Cairo raised the ire of the Free Officers who overthrew the monarchy in Egypt in 1952.

1953 witnessed the most prominent historical affair between the two countries. After Egypt declared itself a Republic, it limited British and Turkish relations that Cairo deemed suspicious. In 1954, the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled the Turkish ambassador in Cairo, Hulusi Fouad Tugay, due to Turkish positions that Cairo deemed to be hostile towards the Arabs.

As a result of the apathy in relations between Cairo and Ankara, Turkey responded with silence in the tripartite aggression against Egypt in 1956, prompting Nasser to adopt a policy of supporting Greece in its dispute with Turkey over Cyprus.

The deterioration of Turkish-Egyptian relations continued during the sixties after Ankara welcomed the separation of Egypt from Syria in 1961. Cairo and Damascus had announced unity on 22 February 1958, following the signing of the Charter of the United Republic. Abdel Nasser was selected as president and declared Cairo as the capital of the new republic. However, a military coup in Damascus on 28 September 1961 ended the unity, and Syria announced the establishment of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The insistence of Turkey that Egypt, which retained the name of the United Arab Republic, separate from Syria, pushed Egypt to expel the Turkish ambassador to Ankara, for the second time in Nasser’s era.

Warmth only returned to the relations between Egypt and Turkey in 1988, when Egypt asked the Turkish-Egyptian committee to develop proposals for achieving a common interest between the two countries.

Relations developed further and were consolidated in the nineties, particularly after a visit from then Turkish Prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to Egypt in 1996, during which he sought to compose an Islamic economic group and wanted Egypt to be one of its members. This resulted in the formation of the Group of Eight countries, and Egypt agreed to join the group, which held its first summit in Istanbul in June 1997.

Turkish-Egyptian relations strengthened under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, who visited Turkey in 2009. But it reached its peak with the victory of President Mohammed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 2012 Egyptian presidential election. Morsi visited Turkey for one day in July 2012, and similarly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Cairo in November 2012.

Following the coup against President Morsi last July, relations between the two countries has once again deteriorated against the backdrop of Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its rejection of the results of the 30 June coup, leading to last weekend’s expulsion of the Turkish Ambassador in Cairo for the third time in the history of relations between the two countries.