Turkey still opposes Egypt’s terrorist labelling of Brotherhood

The Turkish top diplomat’s position seems to vindicate Egypt’s cautious approach to normalisation with Ankara so far.
Wednesday 21/04/2021
A file picture of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaking at a news conference in Ankara, in April 2021. (AFP)
A file picture of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaking at a news conference in Ankara, in April 2021. (AFP)

ANKARA – Turkey remains opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood being declared “terrorists” by Egypt despite a recent push to repair strained ties between the two countries, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

The Turkish top diplomat’s stance seems to vindicate Egypt’s cautious approach to normalisation with Ankara so far.  Cairo has insisted on seeing tangible moves from Turkey demonstrating its intent to withhold support from Islamist militants opposed to the Egyptian regime.

But despite its new conciliatory line with Cairo, Turkey has a lot at stake in its traditionally close ties to the Brotherhood.

Cavusoglu said Turkey viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a “political movement”.

Last month, Turkey said it had resumed diplomatic contacts with Egypt, eight years after ties crumbled over an  army-supported uprising which toppled Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood president close to Ankara, in 2013.

Asked about Turkey’s ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in an interview with broadcaster Haberturk, Cavusoglu said Turkey’s international ties were not based on parties or individuals and that Ankara’s issue with Cairo stemmed from what it views as a “coup.”

“We were against the coup in Egypt, not because it was the Muslim Brotherhood. If (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al) Sisi was in office that day and somebody else had carried out a coup, we would have shown the same principled stance,” Cavusoglu said.

“Our ties are not tied to one person or party. But, we are opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood being declared a terrorist organisation. It is a political movement that is trying to come to power through election,” he said.

A thaw in ties between the regional powerhouses could have repercussions around the Mediterranean. They have backed rival sides in the war in Libya and sealed conflicting maritime deals with other coastal states.

But, Turkey has said a new period in Turkey-Egypt ties had begun and Cavusoglu on Thursday said Ankara did not see “Libya as an area of competition” with Egypt.

In the first concrete sign of a thaw, Ankara last month asked Egyptian opposition TV channels operating in Turkey to moderate their criticism of Egypt.

Cavusoglu on Thursday said Turkey had made a similar request  to other such foreign channels as well, and it was not specific to Egypt.

Last week, Cavusoglu said Turkey will send a delegation to Egypt in early May upon Cairo’s invitation and that he would meet his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry later.

In the interview with Turkish broadcaster HaberTurk late Tuesday, Cavusoglu repeated that Ankara was willing to sign a deal with Egypt over maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

“If we can agree, we will sign (a deal). Egypt would also come out profitably from this,” he said.

He also addressed the two countries’ past differences over Libya.

“In the past, we remained on opposing sides. This is a truth … but now there’s a new government in Libya which will carry the country to elections,” he said.

“We don’t see Libya as an area of competition with Egypt or with any other country.”

In another indication of Turkey’s diplomatic push, members of Egypt’s Istanbul-based opposition media revealed that Turkish officials had asked them to tone down criticism of Sisi.

Cavusoglu on Tuesday admitted “necessary warnings” had been issued to Egyptian opposition before the normalisation period.

After the “Arab spring,” Istanbul became a capital of Arab media critical of their governments back home, especially for Egyptian media linked to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist militants.