Egypt decided Saturday to expel Turkish Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali after remarks made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Cairo deemed as being “provocative,” the foreign ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said Cairo took three decisions on Saturday concerning its diplomatic ties with Ankara.
“First to expel the Turkish ambassador and downgrade our ties to the level of charge d’affaires, second to declare the Turkish ambassador persona non grata and third we will not send our ambassador to Turkey,” Abdelatty told AFP.
He said the decisions were taken after Erdogan made remarks in Russia on Thursday that were “provocative and interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs.”
The Turkish premier condemned an August 14 crackdown by Egyptian security forces on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Mursi in Cairo.
Turkey vowed to retaliate.
“We will take steps in reciprocity after comprehensive consultations with the Turkish ambassador,” foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu told AFP.
Ties have been strained since the ouster of Mursi and, in particular, since the crackdown on his supporters in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares.
At least 627 people were killed in Rabaa al-Adawiya square itself on August 14, according to Egyptian officials, when security forces broke up a sit-in of Mursi’s supporters.
The following day, Cairo and Ankara announced they were recalling their respective ambassadors for consultations.
But Erdogan said on September 4 that Ambassador Botsali would return to Cairo, while Cairo’s envoy was still to return to his post in Ankara.
Turkey’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had forged a close alliance with Mursi since he won Egypt’s first free presidential election in June 2012.
Mursi was ousted by the army on July 3 following days of mass protests by millions against his turbulent year-long rule.
Millions of Egyptians took to the streets demanding the Islamist leader’s resignation, blaming him for ruining an already dilapidated economy, monopolizing power and working solely to fulfil the agendas of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, to which he belonged.
But many of Mursi’s supporters have since demonstrated against the army-backed government, demanding the release of Egypt’s first democratically elected president.