Turkey's tough stance won't help Egypt's democratization, experts agree

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seen together with Mohammed Morsi in this September 2012 photo, has harshly criticized the coup that toppled the former Egyptian president.
Turkey, unlike other countries in its harsh criticism of the coup in Egypt, should stop taking sides and refrain from using bitter political language while making demands for democratization in Egypt, according to experts.
“Turkey shouldn't take a hard-liner position against any country in the Middle East. Countries cannot democratize with these kinds of measures. Democratization doesn't seem to be possible in Egypt for up to one, five or 10 years. That's why Turkey can't contribute to Egypt's democratization with flare-ups,” Professor Sedat Laçiner, the rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University (ÇOMU), told Today's Zaman.
With its frequent statements about protecting democracy in Egypt, Ankara's comment on the Egyptian army intervention was one of the most severe. Known for its close relationship with President Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected leader of Egypt who was ousted by the military last week, on July 4, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) described the Egyptian military intervention as an unacceptable act, called for a return to democracy and tried to convince other countries to step up pressure on Egypt.
With the fall of the Morsi government, Ankara was faced with disappointment again, as it had experienced with Syria, and resorted to strongly condemning the incidents in Cairo.
Turkey broke ties with the authoritarian leader of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, seeing that the Syrian president couldn't meet the expectations of his nation and as the unrest in Syria turned into a bloody civil war.
Outraged with the bloodshed inflicted upon civilians by regime forces, Turkey rushed into announcing a series of measures and sanctions against Damascus, hoping to hasten the departure of Assad. However, that has still not happened yet and Assad's forces, with the help of Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, have started to gain the upper hand over the opposition forces.
“Turkey took a firm stance on the Syria issue, more strongly than it was supposed to. Ankara shouldn't be at the center of any fight in the Middle East. Turkey is a figure of reconciliation in the region and it should use its power on behalf of peace in the region. It shouldn't lose Egypt in the long term and should have a word in its future. If it takes a firm stand on Egypt, it won't have a seat at the table then,” said Laçiner, urging that further actions against Egypt may take Turkey to a point of no return in the Middle East.
Turkish analysts believe Ankara will not take such a firm stance towards Egypt; rather, it will stay engaged with the interim government in Cairo while refraining from measures that might harm bilateral ties.
Mehmet Şahin, a lecturer at Gazi University in Ankara, said that Turkey should not impose any sanctions on Egypt because of its economic relations with the country.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, Şahin said: “I believe Turkey's stance toward the Egyptian government won't be an opposing position in the coming days. Turkey has made big investments in Egypt. Ankara gave $1 billion to Egypt for its economic recovery and $250 million for defense and used it as a transit country to Gulf countries; that's why Turkey won't follow a rigid policy against Egypt.”
Şahin also stressed that if Morsi supporters don't leave the city squares and if the army continues to open fire on people, no country can close its eyes to that kind of incident. “In the event that things become much worse in Egypt, it is inevitable for Turkey to take action against any incidents,” he said.
In a bid to end the bloodshed in Syria in late November 2011, Turkey announced nine separate economic sanctions against its one-time friend. The Turkish government may take the same measures against the military-led Egyptian government -- which recently opened fire on supporters of former President Morsi after having given verbal warnings -- if the situation in the most populous country of the Arab world gets worse in the coming days.
Many of the sanctions imposed on the Syrian government could be applied to Egypt, since the agreements Turkey has signed with Egypt and Syria are similar.
The nine economic injunctions against the Syrian government included one of Turkey's key foreign policy moves, the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council. Turkey suspended the agreement on strategic partnership and mutual assistance until a democratic administration comes to power in Syria.
Turkey and Egypt also signed a High Level Strategic Cooperation Council Agreement in mid-September 2011 and the two countries also made a deal on another 40 issues according to the website of the Prime Ministry's Public Diplomacy Coordination Agency.
In the event that the same sanctions are imposed on Egypt, both countries will be affected negatively, particularly by the cancelation of the cooperation agreement, as Egypt and Turkey agreed on issues including trade, science, technology, energy, defense, banking, tourism and transportation.
Turkey's clear opposition toward Egypt's interim government may lead the Turkish government not to be able to reap the harvest of its investments in Egypt. Ankara decided to provide $2 billion for Egypt's economic recovery and paid half of that financial aid to the Egyptian Central Bank in December 2012.
Other topics in the sanction package against Syria included the supply of any sort of arms or military equipment to the armed forces, preventing the transfer of arms and military equipment via Turkish territories, halting transactions with the central bank and commercial banks, freezing the financial assets of the Syrian government held in Turkey, stopping credit payments to the government, the suspension of the Eximbank (Turkey's export credit agency) loan agreement, imposing a travel ban and measures to freeze the assets of some members of the government and Syrian businessmen.
These subjects are also feasible for an easy application to Egypt. However, if Ankara puts sanctions into practice as it did against Syria, it will lose an important potential defense industry customer. Following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Cairo and a 10-week negotiation in late November 2012, Egypt agreed to become the first country to acquire Turkey's first national unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Anka (Phoenix).
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan stated in late May that Turkey was ready to provide a credit line for the Egyptian government worth $250 million via Eximbank to be used for defense purchases. Babacan said the loan was in addition to a previously agreed upon sum of $1 billion extended to the Egyptian government.

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