President Gül says situation in Egypt ‘temporary’
KIRKLARELİ / ANKARA
President Gül poses with a Turkey map showing the dates when he visited each of the 81 provinces.Turkey and Egypt are “two of a kind,” President Abdullah Gül said, as he likened the current political environment in Egypt to post-coup eras in Turkey, indicating it was only a temporary situation.
Speaking to reporters while in Kırklareli on June 18, Gül was asked whether bilateral relations between Turkey and Egypt might enter a new era considering that he recently congratulated Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on being elected as Egyptian president.
In response, Gül first underlined how the two countries have had friendly relations throughout history.
“We are on the two shores of the Mediterranean. We are almost like ‘the two parts of the same apple,’” Gül added, using a Turkish idiom that means being “two of a kind.”
“What is going on in Egypt is unfortunately saddening; that a lot of people are currently in prison and that the elected government’s term ended with a coup. All of these happened in a friendly country like Egypt, but no doubt, it shall not go on like this. As you might remember, these kinds of things took place in our country only 20 to 30 years ago. Our transition to democracy was achieved in a short period of time,” Gül said.
The army, traditionally deeming itself the guarantor of Turkey’s secularism, had overthrown three administrations: in 1960, 1971 and 1980. As recently as 1997, as part of a move referred to as the “post-modern coup,” the army forced Turkey’s first Islamist-led government to resign.
“As Turkey, we hope Egypt’s transition to democracy is short and they pass through [this turbulent period] without harm. We encourage this. The Egyptian people and Turkish people have always been fraternal. This fraternity will continue strongly,” the president said.
In the first half of June, by sending the congratulatory message to the newly elected president, el-Sisi, Gül marked a first step of official communication between the two countries since the former general – now president – ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, last year.
At the time, presidential sources stressed Gül’s message was “customary” and did not deny the fact that el-Sisi first came to power following a military coup.
The Turkish government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been extremely vocal in denouncing the Egyptian coup. Cairo and Ankara declared each other’s ambassadors persona non grata last fall and mutually reduced their level of representation, damaging long standing bilateral ties between two of the region’s most important countries.
Gül’s position, however, has been slightly different from that of Erdoğan, indirectly urging the government to seek paths of communication with the new administration in Egypt.
‘Turkey doing its best for Iraqi Turkmens’
Turkey’s priority is maintaining its own security and preventing the spread of violence in neighboring countries into its own territory, Gül said, speaking of terrorist groups’ activities in Iraq and Syria, in particular of the kidnapping of dozens of Turkish nationals in Mosul by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Without elaborating whether Turkey might consider an armed move in order to protect Iraqi Turkmens in the neighboring Iraq in order to protect them from a probable assault by ISIL, Gül nonetheless underlined that Turkey has been doing “its best” for the Iraqi Turkmens with whom it has kinship ties.
“No doubt Turkmens in Iraq are the most loyal citizens of the state of Iraq. However, they are also our relatives, our kinship and we never want them to be caught between two fires and harmed. And as Turkey, in order not to let this happen, we are always doing our best and we will continue doing so. I want this to be known,” he added.
Gül, meanwhile, refrained from commenting on whether he will re-run as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate in the upcoming first direct presidential elections in August.
Gül was in the province of Thrace following a visit to the Tekirdağ province in the same region one day before. With his visit to Kırklareli, he fulfilled his pledge of visiting all 81 provinces during his seven-year long tenure, which will end in August.