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A thaw in Turkey’s relations with Egypt?

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Mar 12, 2021

Erdogan: Seven years of iciness give approach to diplomacy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated Friday that there’s “no drawback” with reinitiating higher-level Egypt-Turkey ties. 

That’s a shift, coming after a seven-year freeze in relations that began after Turkey’s backing of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was elected in 2012 and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Morsi was deposed in 2013, following uprisings and a army coup that led to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi turning into president in 2014.

Ties with Turkey thereafter went into the deep freeze.

Erdogan stated the warming pattern is just not but “at the highest level but it is just a notch under,” that means that he and Sisi haven’t but sealed the deal.

A brand new chapter in Turkey’s Arab ties?

A change in Egypt-Turkey relations would have a big impact on the area, the place political and diplomatic ties are deeply intertwined.

It’s additionally in all probability not a coincidence that Erdogan’s outreach to Egypt follows an enchancment in Egypt’s ties with Qatar, Turkey’s most essential Arab associate. Mohamed Saied explains right here the warming pattern in Egypt-Qatar ties, following the Gulf Cooperation Council summit two months in the past.

The resolution in January by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to bury the hatchet with Qatar, a reconciliation facilitated by the United States and Kuwait, compelled a rethink in Ankara’s regional technique, together with with Saudi Arabia, the place the dangerous blood has been on excessive boil. 

The homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi came about in Istanbul, and Erdogan’s authorities loved placing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the dominion on the spot.  

Erdogan and King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud had a uncommon phone chat in November 2020 in the course of the G-20 digital summit, through which they mentioned “keeping channels of dialogue open in order for the bilateral relations to be enhanced and for issues to be settled,” in keeping with an official Turkish readout.

After the current launch of the US intelligence report putting duty for the killing on the crown prince, “Turkey — a strong critic of the royal — has remained silent” fairly than piling on, Amberin Zaman wrote.

Erdogan’s assertion Friday was uncharacteristically muted, seemingly plaintive, on the dominion. “Let me add one more thing,” he stated. “Saudi Arabia’s joint exercise with Greece has saddened us. We would not want to see Saudi Arabia make such a decision. Surely we will discuss it with the Saudi authorities. We think it should not have happened and should not be like this.”

Erdogan searching for Egypt’s help in dispute with Greece

Erdogan’s prime short-term precedence is to attract Egypt to its aspect in an ongoing dispute with Greece relating to demarcation of jap Mediterranean maritime boundaries, together with sovereignty over beneficial fuel reserves, and there’s no signal but of that taking place.

Fehim Tastekin describes overlapping preparations between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus on one aspect and Turkey and Libya on the opposite that have boxed in Ankara and Cairo, at the very least in the intervening time.

“Cairo’s intention to keep the maritime deal it reached with Greece and Cyprus limits the area it can negotiate with Turkey,” explains Tastekin. “This in turn means Turkey’s goal to team up with Egypt to counter Cyprus’ and Greece’s territorial claims would go down the drain as the maritime deal Ankara reached with the Tripoli government overlaps with the deals Egypt reached with Cyprus and Greece.”

Erdogan, in fact, supplied his personal cultural evaluation of why Egypt ought to tilt towards Turkey, fairly than Greece. “Surely you can’t place the Egyptian folks along with the Greek folks,’ he stated. ‘We can never believe that the Greek people and the Egyptian people would be identical. Therefore, we would like to see them at their proper place.”

Opportunity in Libya?

On the other side of the Mediterranean, a warming in Egypt-Turkey ties could pay dividends for Libya. Egypt had been a backer of Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Hifter; Turkey has sent jihadis from Syria to fight for the Libyan government.

As we explained here last month, Egypt and most outside parties got on board with the October 2020 cease-fire, which allowed a political process to take hold and gain traction, leading to the vote this week by the Libyan House of Representatives endorsing the interim government proposed by Prime Minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah

The agenda for the new government is daunting, including unification of government institutions split by nearly a decade of civil war, and elections in December. Libya doesn’t have an opportunity if the skin powers that backed the opponents fire up the army battle once more. A assertion by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy additionally known as for “the withdrawal of all international fighters and mercenaries,” a message to Russia and Turkey.

Contest for influence in Africa

Turkey has also challenged Egyptian influence in parts of Africa, but it has been an uphill battle, and sometimes overblown in the regional press, as Tastekin explains.

Turkey had good relations with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect who was ousted in 2019. Bashir, like Erdogan, had an affinity for the Brotherhood and poor relations with Egypt.

Egypt-Sudan ties have taken off since Abdalla Hamdok became prime minister after Bashir’s ouster. Sisi visited Khartoum last week “in a move that carried political and safety messages towards Ethiopia’s resolution to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reservoir with out consulting Egypt and Sudan,” Ayah Aman reviews.

Elsewhere, Egypt and Turkey have picked up their diplomatic outreach in Guinea-Bisseau, as we report right here, in addition to Senegal, as Khalid Hassan reviews, Ghana, as George Mikhail reviews, and Somalia, as Muhammed Magdy and Tastekin report.

A caveat

There’s nonetheless a protracted approach to go in repairing Turkey-Egypt ties, Tastekin concludes.

“Turkey’s army presence in Libya, Ankara’s help of the Muslim Brotherhood (which Cairo designated a terrorist group) and Erdogan’s anti-Sisi posture nonetheless stay as main limitations to the advance of ties,” writes Tastekin. “Although Erdogan has scaled down his indignant outbursts towards the Egyptian chief, the Turkish president nonetheless salutes his supporters with a Rabia signal marking the resistance of Muslim Brotherhood members.”

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