A war of words between Turkey and Egypt began after Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of being illegitimate in front of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. According to the Hurriyet Daily News, Erdogan pulled no punches:
“The United Nations as well as the democratic countries have done nothing but watch the events such as overthrowing the elected president in Egypt and the killings of thousands of innocent people who want to defend their choice. And the person who carried out this coup is being legitimized.”
That “person” is, of course, al-Sisi. The Egyptians countered by blasting Erdogan as a supporter of terrorism. A statement released through its foreign ministry read:
“There is no doubt that the fabrication of such lies and fabrications are not something strange that comes from the Turkish President, who is keen to provoke chaos to sow divisions in the Middle East region through its support for groups and terrorist organizations,” the foreign ministry said.“Whether political support or funding or accommodation in order to harm the interests of the peoples of the region to achieve personal ambitions for the Turkish president and revive illusions of the past.”
Erdogan is a staunch ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom Sisi and the Egyptian government see as mortal enemies, so this antagonism is not entirely out of the blue. But the fierce, public nature of the accusations indicates that one of the major political divides in the Arab-Muslim world is deepening.Right now, that world is roughly divided into three blocs. One, lead by the Saudis and including the Egyptians and the UAE, is politically moderate although in many cases religiously extremist. Even though the Saudis are the largest exporters of Wahhabi Islam worldwide, they and their allies would like to see the existing order of states in the Middle East continue and withstand threats from groups like ISIS and Hamas. So they aligned more or less openly with the Israelis during the recent Gaza conflict and have sided with the United States during the current ISIS campaign.Another group, led by the Turks, funded by Qatar, and including Hamas, is politically adventurous, seeking to reshape the current order, even if its theology is in some cases less radical than that of the Saudis. Finally, ISIS and al-Qaeda vie for leadership of the hardcore extremists, who want to overturn the existing religious and political order.As a result, tensions have grown increasingly sharp between Ankara, which is contending for dominance over the region as a whole, and the regime in Cairo, which is still trying to consolidate control over its own nation and the surrounding area (including curtailing Hamas in Gaza and intervening in Libya).In response to this heated exchange, Egypt cancelled a meeting of Foreign Ministers that was to take place in New York. With the stakes in the region growing ever higher, we do not expect the two countries to cool off any time soon.