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Egypt, Turkey oust envoys

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 6:57 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt downgraded diplomatic relations on Saturday with Turkey and expelled its ambassador from Cairo, a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries that mounted when a military coup ousted the country's Islamist president this summer.

In a quick reaction, Turkey reciprocated by declaring the Egyptian ambassador “persona non grata” and downgrading relations with Egypt to the same level. Egypt's ambassador hadn't been in the country since August over the turmoil.

On Friday, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his criticism of the July overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsy and urged the Egyptian authorities to free him. Egypt's interim government becomes testy when Turkish leaders criticize the popularly backed military coup that toppled Morsy.

“This (Turkish) leadership has persisted in its unacceptable and unjustified positions by trying to turn the international community against Egyptian interests and ... by making statements that can only be described as an offense to the popular will,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Although the moves fall short of closing diplomatic missions in the two countries, they are a dramatic reversal of the warming relations between the two countries over the past year.

Speaking to reporters in the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon, Erdogan appeared unfazed by the diplomatic snub. He said there would be no shift in his position toward Egypt's new rulers.

“I will never have respect for those who come to power through coups,” Erdogan said Saturday.

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