- Ahmed Shousha
- BBC – Cairo
Talking about Turkey has become a rare matter in the Egyptian media at the present time, after television programs and newspaper pages did not lose their ferocity in the attack on the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whether his foreign policies or his management of his country’s affairs, even if the matter was related to the high number of infections with the Coronavirus. .
The current truce appears as a logical response after talking about an expected normalization in Egyptian-Turkish relations, which have remained tense over the past eight years.
Journalists working for Egyptian media that the BBC spoke to say that instructions were received to reduce the tone of the attack on Turkey some time ago.
Turkey has taken several measures to prove its sincere desire for rapprochement with Egypt, including the curtailment of the channels opposing the Egyptian government that broadcast from its territory and the Turkish parliament’s approval of a memorandum on forming a parliamentary friendship committee with the Egyptian parliament.
The Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced that a Turkish diplomatic delegation headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister will visit Cairo to discuss the restoration of normal relations with Egypt.
In the event that the visit, which is the first of its kind in several years, is successful, he will meet at a later time the foreign ministers of the two countries, in preparation for announcing an end to the dispute between them and the return of ambassadors.
This was preceded by statements by Turkish officials flirting with Cairo and talking about that relations should be fine between the two sides, but Egypt has often stated that Turkey must prove this “with deeds and not words.”
In response to the Turkish steps that pave the way for a possible reconciliation, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mustafa Madbouly, congratulated the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the efforts of his country during its presidency of the Islamic Group of Eight.
What has changed?
Since the arrival of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to power about seven years ago, tension has prevailed between the two countries, as Turkey has not stopped criticizing the Egyptian regime and described what happened in 2013 when the army removed former President Mohamed Morsi as a “coup against legitimacy.”
That year witnessed the beginning of the tense Egyptian-Turkish relations, as Ankara summoned its ambassador in Cairo, to which Egypt responded in kind, until each party considered the ambassador of the other persona non grata, but the embassies of the two countries did not close their doors, and they continued to operate at a low level of representation throughout the eight years. Past.
Bashir Abdel-Fattah, a researcher on Turkish affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, believes that Turkey has become besieged and suffers from isolation, both externally and internally, as its relations are tense with the United States, the European Union, Greece, Cyprus and Israel, as well as with the regional and Arab surroundings.
He adds that there is a growing anger at the Turkish domestic level and demands for early presidential elections, and that is why Erdogan is looking to restore his popularity by making a breakthrough in his international and regional relations, and he thinks that Egypt is the key to this penetration.
Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also experiencing tensions, and the demarcation of the maritime borders with Egypt and Greece and the formation of the Mediterranean Gas Forum, which includes members including Greece, Cyprus and Israel, has become an obstacle for some to Turkey’s ambitions to obtain a share of the Mediterranean gas.
Ambassador Rakha Hassan, the former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, indicates that there have been developments during the past year in the region, whether at the level of the Middle East or the Arab region, explaining that there is a solution to the Libyan crisis through the formation of the interim government, the Gulf reconciliation with Qatar, and the reduction of tension with Iran, as well as changing the situation in Syria.
In his interview with the BBC, Rakha Hassan added that at the international level, problems have increased between Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean countries, as well as with the United States due to the Russian missile deal, as well as with the European Union due to human rights and tension in the eastern Mediterranean.
Rakha confirms that there is a decline in the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in several countries, and that the Muslim Brotherhood tide, which was at its height in 2010, appears weak now, which makes Turkey reconsider its accounts in this area.
On the Turkish domestic level, the repercussions of the Corona epidemic negatively affected tourism and raised unemployment rates, in addition to the fact that the elections scheduled for 2023 are close, if not before, with some calls for early elections, according to Rakha Hassan.
All this made the Turkish president reconsider his country’s foreign policies in order to develop its interests, according to the opinion of the former diplomatic official.
Emerging common interests
While the Turkish political analyst, Firas Radwanoglu, confirms that what is new is the new common interests, as Turkey’s signing of an agreement with Libya on the maritime borders is not completely out of the equation in the eastern Mediterranean.
Radwanoglu told the BBC that there are other indications of timing, including that Turkey considers this year a year for diplomacy, during which it is trying to solve its problems with international parties after it has achieved the gains it was seeking during the previous period.
Observers point out that the Middle East is witnessing a reformulation of relations and alliances between its parties, and Turkey, in its role as a major player in it, is keen to be part of this process.
Some writers believe that Greece, Cyprus and Israel’s neglect of Egypt in the electrical interconnection agreement led to a “rift” in the alliance of those countries.
Discussions table crowded
The most prominent of the differences that emerged during the past seven years was the military conflict in Libya, which Cairo considers an extension of its national security, as the two countries link borders close to 1,200 km.
Turkey has become a major player in the recent period on Libyan soil, after it signed a maritime and security agreement with its previous government, and there are Turkish forces on Libyan soil so far.
There are sharp differences between Egypt and Turkey in several regional and international files.
Radwanoglu believes that the files under discussion will be gas in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s hosting of the Egyptian opposition, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and a number of complex regional issues in Libya, as well as representation in international forums between the two parties.
Bashir Abdel-Fattah confirms that the Turkish interventions in Libya, Syria and Iraq, about which visions differ between Cairo and Ankara, will be on the discussion table, in addition to Arab water security and Turkey’s role in the Renaissance Dam, as well as the legal prosecution in international forums that Turkey is carrying out against Egypt.
Ambassador Rakha Hassan also stresses that the benefit from the rapprochement between the two countries is mutual, explaining that Egypt is a huge economic and investment market, and there will be a recovery in economic and trade relations, and the door will be opened for Turkish investment in the new Egyptian cities, as well as coordination of efforts or compromise between the two countries will be reflected at the regional level, especially in In addition to that, Egypt wants Turkey to deal with its political system and recognize its legitimacy.
Some disagreement will remain
Even if relations between Cairo and Ankara improve, there will still be points of disagreement between the two sides, according to Radwanoglu.
He clarifies that the Libyan file will not witness a complete consensus, and the continuation of the dialogue about it is an important thing.
He adds that the incursion into Africa will be the focus of competition between Turkey and Egypt, as well as the Arab region and the eastern Mediterranean, but it is important to find common spaces in all files through which disputed points can be overcome.
Ambassador Rakha Hassan agrees on this, saying that the dispute will continue to exist in many matters, including the regime on the island of Cyprus, where Egypt supports the United Nations resolution to reunify Cyprus, as well as Syria, which Egypt believes that there is a Turkish military intervention in part and that there is a need To terminate it.
Çavuşolu had said that his country still objected to Egypt’s classification of the Muslim Brotherhood in the category of terrorist groups, and that his country considered the group a political movement, when he revealed the visit of his country’s delegation to Cairo in early April.
The former Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister believes that it is important to start dialogue between the two countries, and as interests grow, views converge.
Discussions between the two countries continued at the intelligence level, according to several reports, during the last period.
The sign of the success of the upcoming talks, if they happen, may be the raising of diplomatic representation between Egypt and Turkey, but its effects will certainly extend, according to followers, to a clear change in alliances and relations, whether with regard to the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean or in the Arab region and the Middle East.