Egypt on Saturday downgraded diplomatic relations with Turkey and ordered its ambassador to leave the country, accusing Ankara of interfering in its internal affairs.
Turkey, which is a staunch supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi‘s Muslim Brotherhood, vowed to reciprocate within hours, in the latest flare-up of simmering hostility between the two Islamic nations and U.S. allies.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it is scaling back the diplomatic relations with Turkey to the level of charge d’affaires, as it accused Ankara of “attempting to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests" and "supported meetings of organizations that seek to create instability” in the nation.
"We decided to withdraw our ambassador from Turkey and summon the Turkish ambassador in Cairo to inform him he is persona non grata and ask him to leave," state-run Ahram online reported, citing Badr Abdel-Atty, spokesman for the foreign ministry.
Diplomatic relations between the countries were strained after Turkey strongly criticized the ouster of Mursi and called the July 3 military operation that replaced him an "unacceptable coup."
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Ankara’s Islamic ruling party has also been vocal in backing the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests across Egypt to demand Mursi’s reinstatement.
Cairo’s decision to expel Ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali comes a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his criticism against Egypt’s new rulers and called for the release of Mursi.
Turkey and Egypt had recalled their ambassadors in August for consultation after Egyptian security forces raided pro-Mursi camps, killing hundreds, and Ankara strongly condemned Egypt’s new rulers over the incident.
Turkey's ambassador returned weeks later, but Egypt did not sent its envoy back to his post in Ankara.
In reaction to the decision, Turkish President Abdullah Gul told state-run TRT television that he hoped relations between the two countries “will be restored soon.”
However, the Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said Ankara "will respond with reciprocal steps in coming hours."