International opinion divided over toppling of Mursi
LONDON, Asharq Al-Awsat—The downfall of Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi at the hands of millions of protestors and the country’s armed forces has provoked mixed reactions abroad.
Within the Arab world, the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two states that have sparred with the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Mursi originally hailed and from which he drew much of his support, were both quick to welcome his departure.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia offered his congratulations to Adli Mansour, the former chief of Egypt’s supreme court, who was sworn in as interim president on Thursday. In a cable to Mansour, the Saudi monarch praised the Egyptian army, saying it had “managed to save Egypt at this critical moment from a dark tunnel, [of which] only God could apprehend its dimensions and repercussions.”
The president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also sent a congratulatory cable to Mansour. The UAE’s state news agency, WAM, reported that he said: “We have followed with appreciation and satisfaction the national consensus that has been seen in your sisterly country, which played a prominent role in enabling Egypt to get out of its crisis in a peaceful way, preserving its institutions, embodying the ancient civilization of Egypt and enhancing its Arab and international role.”
The UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, paid tribute to Egypt’s army for its role in ensuring Mursi’s downfall, according to the WAM. “Sheikh Abdullah said that the great Egyptian army was able to prove again that they are the fence of Egypt and that they are the protector and strong shield that guarantee Egypt will remain a state of institutions and law,” a report from the agency said.
In contrast, Qatar, which offered billions of dollars of financial aid to Mursi’s government and has maintained closer links with the Muslim Brotherhood, was more restrained in its welcome of Egypt’s new rulers. In a statement carried by Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, a foreign ministry official said: “Qatar supports the will of the Egyptian people and views Egypt as a leader in the Arab and Islamic world . . . Qatar will continue to respect the will of Egypt and its people across the [political] spectrum.”
The governments of Tunisia and Turkey expressed disapproval of the topping of Mursi. In Tunisia, the Islamist Ennahda Party—currently the senior member of a governing coalition, said that the toppling of Mursi amounted to a “coup against legitimacy.”
This disapproval was echoed by Ennahda’s coalition partners, the left-wing secularist Congress for the Republic party, which released a statement saying: “The party condemns the military coup against the democratic process . . . We view what the leadership of the army has done as a setback on the path of the Egyptian revolution and an attempt to reinstall the old regime.”
“A military coup sends a dangerous message to the Arab peoples, it hampers the democratic transition and sows despair among the peoples of the region,” the statement added.
In Turkey, a country with a history of military coups, and where Prime Minister Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) were recently the focus of intense protests, there was also criticism of the Egyptian military’s actions.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking to reporters in Istanbul on Thursday, said: “The removal of President Mohamed Mursi, who came to power through a democratic election, by the intervention of the Egyptian army is an extremely worrying situation . . . Leaders who come to power with open and transparent elections reflecting the will of the people can only be removed by elections.”
“It is unacceptable for a government that has come to power through democratic elections to be toppled through illicit means and, even more, a military coup,” he added.
In the US, official statements from the State Department and the White House also expressed concern about the role of the Egyptian military, and stressed their desire to see Egypt swiftly returned to civilian rule.
Nonetheless, official statements from the US studiously avoided using the term “coup.” Under existing US policy, countries which have undergone military coups are ineligible for US aid. Egypt has been the recipient of billions of dollars of assistance from the US since the Camp David Accords, and there is little doubt among analysts that the US wishes to use the leverage it believes this aid gives it to maintain some degree of influence in Egypt.
A statement from US President Barack Obama issued on Thursday read: “No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve . . . The long-standing partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.”