CAIRO – Egypt downgraded diplomatic relations Saturday with Turkey and expelled its ambassador from Cairo, a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries that mounted after a military coup ousted the country’s Islamist president this summer.
In a quick reaction, Turkey reciprocated by declaring the Egyptian ambassador “persona non grata” and downgrading relations with Egypt to the same level. Egypt’s ambassador hadn’t been in the country since August over the turmoil.
Saturday’s decisions, which fall short of closing diplomatic missions in the two countries, are a dramatic reversal of the warming relations between the two countries over the past year.
Egypt’s interim government vehemently has protested remarks by Turkish leaders criticizing the popularly backed military coup that toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The decision Saturday followed another critical comment by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon, Erdogan appeared unfazed by the diplomatic snub. He said there would be no shift in his position toward Egypt’s new rulers.
“I will never have respect for those who come to power through coups,” Erdogan said Saturday.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it considered the Turkish envoy “persona non grata” and asked him to leave the country.
The ministry said it will scale back its diplomatic relations with Turkey to the level of charge d’affaires.