Turkey preparing for possible evacuation of Turks from Egypt
Army soldiers stand guard at Republican Guard Headquarters after early clashes in Nasr City, in the suburb of Cairo July 8, 2013. (Reuters, Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
The Turkish Embassy in Cairo has started preparations for a possible evacuation of Turkish citizens from Egypt, as the North African country is on the verge of a civil war following the ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, by the armed forces.
Official sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry have said that Turkish foreign missions would be prepared to take measures like evacuation in such “critical conditions” as those in Egypt. They said that the embassy in Cairo has started to collect information on how many Turkish citizens are in Egypt and where they are located, although an evacuation is not yet under way.
The conflict in Egypt has escalated as clashes took place between army troops and pro-Morsi demonstrators on Monday in Cairo, leaving at least 42 people dead and wounding hundreds.
As some Islamists are demonstrating for Morsi to resume his role as president as soon as possible after last week's military intervention, anti-Morsi groups are celebrating the current situation as the enforcement of the will of the people.
Meanwhile, Turkey has become the target of anti-Morsi groups in the country after its loud condemnation of the Egyptian army for the ouster of Morsi, with whom it had developed close relations. Turkish reporter Bilge Egemen was assaulted by a group of anti-Morsi demonstrators gathered in iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo after reporting the developments in Egypt as a “coup d'etat,” as opposed to what they call a “democratic revolution.” The reporter said on her Twitter account late on Sunday: “We were about to be lynched in Tahrir today just because we are coming from Turkey. We narrowly saved ourselves. Tahrir [was] like a minefield.”
On July 3, Egypt's army chief ousted Morsi and suspended the country's constitution.
The recent events in Egypt have also dealt a blow to Turkish exports to the Middle East, as trade between Turkey and Egypt faces a deadlock due to current situation. Some 450 Turkish lorries carrying cargo from Turkey to Gulf countries via Egypt are currently stranded at the ports of İskenderun and Mersin due to tight security measures imposed by the Egyptian military at customs gates. Around 500 other Turkish lorries also have been held up in Saudi Arabia as they cannot cross the Egyptian border as easily as before.
On June 11, Turkey and Egypt's now-ousted government signed an agreement to ease procedures for companies at customs gates. The two countries pledged that mutual transport of goods by land, sea and rail would be exempt from long paperwork procedures. Turkey has benefited from Egyptian customs being the gateway to the growing North African, Middle East and Gulf markets while it served as a door to Europe for Egypt. Trade via Egypt has gained more importance than before for Turkey following the political crisis in Syria and its deteriorated relations with Damascus.