Egypt Can Heal Turkey Ties by Sparing Mursi, Kurtulmus Says

  • Turkey sees no solution in Syria with Bashar al-Assad in power
  • Says risk of wider regional war looms without Syria solution

Turkey would like to normalize ties with Egypt if it blocks the execution of former President Mohamed Mursi, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said, building on recent moves to end costly antagonisms with other nations.

Scenes From Turkey as Army Attempts to Seize Control

“We think a statement of will by Egypt to the world in this direction is necessary both for democratization of Egypt and normalizing relations with Turkey,” Kurtulmus said in an interview at parliament on Wednesday, adding that there’s been no official reconciliation contacts yet. “Turkey and Egypt are two key countries in the Middle East and north Africa, and it is natural for them to normalize friendly and brotherly relations.”

Mohamed Mursi behind bars in Cairo.

Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/via Getty Images

The overture toward Egypt followed Turkey’s moves last month to mend strained ties with both Israel and Russia in the hope of ending diplomatic rifts that sapped its economy and left it isolated in the region. Relations with Egypt frayed after the 2013 overthrow of the Islamist Mursi, a close ally of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was led by the current Egyptian president, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

After Mursi’s ouster, El-Sisi drove a crackdown on Islamist groups that killed hundreds and jailed thousands more. Mursi was sentenced to death in 2015 on charges he escaped from prison and collaborated with foreign groups to destabilize the nation during the 2011 revolt against his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. An appeal is in process.

Reviewing Trials

Kurtulmus said Egypt should review trials of Mursi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders by courts that are not impartial. He also called on Egypt to hold free, multi-party elections and to carry out democratic reforms Egyptians clamored for when they ousted Mubarak.

In June, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that while Egypt welcomes all efforts to improve relations with Turkey, there must first be “a clear acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the Egyptian people’s will” in toppling Mursi and establishing new governing institutions.

Turkey wants to heal ties with Syria as well, but it does not see a resolution of the war there as long as President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, Kurtulmus said.

“How can the people of Syria make peace with a ruler who is primarily responsible for the war?’’ he asked.

Turkey’s security has been compromised by Islamic State militants attacking it from Syria. The government is also worried that Kurdish territorial gains there have emboldened Turkey’s own Kurdish PKK group, which is engaged in a decades-old conflict for autonomy that according to officials has killed tens of thousands people, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and undermined Turkish aspirations to join the EU.

“Syria’s chaos and political turbulence is an internal security matter for Turkey,” Kurtulmus said. “If regional countries engage in a joint search to solve the problems of the Kurds in the region, then it could be possible to prevent northern Syria becoming a separate Kurdish state.”

He warned that the Syrian conflict could lead to a wider regional conflict.

“No one should be fooled by the existence of Daesh as the common enemy,” Kurtulmus said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “If no solution is found in Syria, large countries could engage in a conflict.”

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