Turkey doesn’t want to harbor Muslim Brotherhood

Turkey doesn’t want to harbor Muslim Brotherhood

Ankara does not want to “put itself in a difficult position” by hosting the leadership of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood (MB, or Ikhvan-i Muslimin), who are likely to be deported by Qatar, a high ranking Turkish official who asked not to be named said on Sept. 15.

The source gave that reply during a telephone interview regarding a statement by Mahmoud Hussein, the Secretary General of the MB, who had named Turkey as being among the countries that they would like to be hosted in after being forced to leave Qatar.

Hussein and other six prominent figures of the MB have been living in Qatar since the toppling of the MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) President Mohamad Morsi in Egypt through a military coup on July 3, 2013. The coup leader, now Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah Sisi had denounced the MB as an outlawed terrorist organization.

“Turkey does not require visas from citizens of Egypt,” the ranking Turkish source said. “Any citizen of Egypt can come to Turkey, just like he [or she] can go anywhere else. On the other hand, we do not want to be in any business that will put us in difficulty. A perception that Turkey is hosting the leadership of Ikhvan or any other foreign organization will put it in a difficult position. For the time being, there is no demand from Turkey from the people in question that they want to come to Turkey. But we would not host a group that Egypt considers an enemy, neither would we want to give such a perception; in fact we would suggest [they] did not [come here]. We work with whoever is in power in Egypt.”

The Turkish official’s response to our questions about the possibility of the MB leadership moving to Turkey after being asked to leave Qatar is important in these aspects:

1- The Turkish government does not want the MB leadership to be based in Turkey, despite the sympathy in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) ranks for the toppled President Morsi, his FJP, and the MB’s general political line. However, the official left the door open for the travels of individual MB members to Turkey, without making Turkey a hub of their activities.

2- Ankara is sending an indirect but warm message to Egypt for the normalization of relations. Turkey and Egypt mutually withdrew their ambassadors following the August 2013 killings in Cairo, when security forces opened fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan had taken a strong stance against the Sisi administration - when Erdoğan was still prime minister - and used the four-finger “Rabia” sign of the MB in reference to those protests as one of the symbols of his subsequent presidential campaign.

This development is in line with the recent mood in Ankara to get relations back on track with Egypt. The two countries are also in cooperation in efforts to prevent “foreign fighters,” or European jihadis, from going to Syria and have recently been included in the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

Turkey rejects claims in the Western media and from some politicians that it has turned a blind eye to the use of its border with Syria by radical Islamist militants in their fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, who is in President Erdoğan’s delegation during his ongoing visit to Qatar, said the claims about Turkey being involved in the illegal oil trade with ISIL-linked sumugglers were untrue and produced by those who wanted to give Turkey bad publicity.

Meanwhile, Ankara is set to take in part in the anti-ISIL coalition in intelligence sharing, prevention of foreign fighters, and opening up its bases for logistical and humanitarian operations, but will not join any military action.

In the evening hours, President Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters returning to Turkey with him from Qatar the following regarding the Ikhwan developments:

•    “First of all there is [no case of] our [Turkish] officials talking to them. I don’t know who made that statement or who the [brotherhood] talked to in Turkey. I don’t have such information.”

•    “If these people demand to come to Turkey, those demands will be evaluated. If there is a reason which is against their entry, then [it will be] considered as such. The inspection is [to be] carried out on a name basis. If there is no obstacle, they will be treated comfortably as any other foreign visitor.”

When considered together with the ranking Turkish official’s words earlier in the day, the remarks indicate confusion in Ankara about what to do with Ikhwan leaders if they come and settle in Turkey and continue their political activities.

The decision will be a tough one for the Erdoğan-Davutoğlu duo, since it may affect Turkey’s relations with both the West and Arab countries.

The Turkish government’s heart would like to see the Ikhwan leaders stay in Turkey, but its mind is telling it that they should go elsewhere, perhaps to a country with no extradition treaty with Egypt.