Question and answer.. Will the new year witness the Egyptian-Turkish crises?

Cairo – The year 2021 witnessed the continuation of a long path in efforts to restore Egyptian-Turkish relations, as the two sides met in two rounds of bilateral talks in Cairo and Ankara, during which the two countries affirmed their desire to take more additional steps to make progress on outstanding issues and restore diplomatic relations.

Last year, the media debate between the two sides stopped, and Ankara suspended the most prominent broadcasters of the Egyptian opposition channels abroad (Mohamed Nasser and Moataz Matar), which Cairo considered a positive step on the words of its Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

This comes after years of estrangement and political tension between Egypt and Turkey since 2013, as a common desire for calm seemed to coincide with regional and international interactions and transformations in several files in the region. According to many indicators, the normalization of relations appears to be a “matter of time” in 2022.

On the last day of last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the two countries “are about to turn a new page, although things are not going as fast as we want.”

He stressed that Egypt will come out with many gains after the maritime border demarcation agreement that will be signed between Ankara and Cairo.

Despite the official statements from both sides promising the return of relations, there are obstacles that remained unchanged, most notably the files of spheres of influence and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria.

In this report, Al Jazeera Net answers the most prominent questions related to the Egyptian-Turkish file in a forward-looking context for 2022:

Is convergence become a matter of time?

Based on the indicators of the continued flow of trade between the two countries, and cooperation in the field of importing liquefied gas from Egypt, which could develop by extending the Arab gas pipeline to Turkey and exporting Egyptian gas, as well as the gas that Cairo imports from Israel to Turkey, the Egyptian academic and researcher in political science Mohamed Al-Zawawi believes – In statements to Al Jazeera Net- that:

  • The Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement is still possible at the tactical level.
  • It is difficult for a rapprochement to occur at the strategic level between the two countries due to the different orientations of the foreign policy and its foundations, as well as the difference in the strategic vision in building alliances, and the structure of the two systems.

From a Turkish perspective, the Turkish writer and researcher Abdullah Aydogan began his comment to Al Jazeera Net about the future of relations between the two countries in the new year, by saying that the Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement has become realistic based on the following indicators:

  • The Cairo and Ankara tours last year after years of diplomatic estrangement.
  • Turkish politicians saw that reconciliation had taken place, and only some details remained.
  • Politics remains the art of the possible, and perhaps 2022 will see more positive steps to bolster relationships.
  • There is a high probability that ambassadors and diplomatic representation will be re-exchanged in place of the chargé d’affaires in the new year.
  • We may witness visits at the level of foreign ministers, perhaps up to reciprocal visits between the Egyptian Prime Minister and the Vice President of the Turkish Republic (the position of Prime Minister in Turkey was abolished after the country transitioned from the parliamentary system to the presidential system in the summer of 2018).

What are the main threats to convergence and the possibility of overcoming them?

The biggest obstacle facing the two countries, according to Al-Zawawi, is:

  • The different strategic directions in foreign policy, alliance building, and the strategic vision of both countries.
  • The radical difference between the two sides represented in their vision of the role of religion in the public sphere.
  • Ankara aims to rebuild the regional system based on an Islamic umbrella, while Cairo sees preserving the survival of the Arab system and trying to revive it, while removing the role of religion from power and its interpretation of the relationship of religion to the state.
  • The Egyptian regime is still struggling to stabilize its pillars after the Arab Spring revolutions, and its goals remain motivated by the regime’s survival attempt.
  • Cairo is making a barter in its foreign policies based on that main objective.

On the other hand, Aydogan believes that the most prominent of these threats is a rift in the relations of the two countries during the past nine years, as Egyptian public opinion – including the elites – has become affected by the negative media coverage of the relations of the two countries.

What is the impact of the return of relations on the two countries and the conflicts in the region?

The two countries are engaged in more than one crisis file in Libya, Syria and Mediterranean gas. On the one hand, the Libyan file is directly involved in the Mediterranean gas crisis and the demarcation of maritime borders between more than one country.

On the other hand, since the signs of Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement, Greece, Cyprus and Israel fear that reviewing the maritime borders is an issue on the table, especially with the presence of a Libyan-Turkish agreement that grants Egypt a large area of ​​the maritime borders and its natural gas wealth.

In this regard, Al-Zawawi does not rule out a tactical rapprochement between the two countries, as cooperation in tactical files will continue in the new year, especially attempts at rapprochement in the Libyan files and perhaps the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and cooperation in the field of gas.

On the other hand, Erdogan stressed that the Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement had a positive impact on a number of conflict files between the two countries, most notably:

  • Witness The Libyan file converged views, as Libya was the biggest threat to the relations of the two countries.
  • This was reflected on the Libyan officials. While one of them visits one of the two countries, he visits the second country later, as was done recently by the President of the Libyan Presidential Council Muhammad al-Munifi and the former Libyan Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha (who is one of the most prominent presidential candidates in Libya).
  • There are common interests between the two countries in the eastern Mediterranean, the region rich in gas.
  • If the politicians in the two countries are able to adopt the principle of common gains, the file will be a means for further rapprochement and the interests of the two countries.

Are regional parties seeking to prevent an Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement?

Al-Zawawi refers to shifts in the structure of regional decision-making, which may affect relations between Egypt and Turkey, in light of the following:

  • In addition to the efforts to revive the Arab umbrella and restore its effectiveness in the regional system, other Arab diplomatic efforts are emerging in the direction of alliance with Israel and building a new regional order with Tel Aviv as its nucleus, given the centrality of some Gulf states’ fears of Iranian nuclear.
  • Egypt remains unable to revive and activate its regional role through the Arab umbrella, which was dominated by Gulf funds, and the regional decision-making focus has shifted to it.
  • Egypt is unable to enter into a full strategic partnership with Israel, given that the latter wants to marginalize Cairo’s role and cooperate with the wealthy Gulf states that have a strategic relationship with Washington.

Meanwhile, Erdogan believes that the Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement will:

  • The change in the situation that began in 2013, because the distance between the two important countries in the region and the rivalry between them, has benefited other regional countries in the Middle East such as Israel, which is concerned about the rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey.
  • There may be attempts by regional and international powers, including Israel, to prevent rapprochement or to play a chord with extending the period of diplomatic absence for the ambassadors of the two countries, or perhaps not returning completely.
  • Recently calmed the situation in the region in favor of Egyptian-Turkish relations.
  • The Egyptian-Turkish normalization will be gradual and the major, final, and most important step of the Turkish-Emirati rapprochement, or the Turkish-Saudi rapprochement.

In a related context, in response to a question about the appointment of a Turkish ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that he does not agree at the present time with the idea that only the ambassador can improve relations on his own after a long break.

The Turkish minister stressed – in statements to local TV 3 days ago – that “this is a decision (appointing ambassadors) to be taken together after relations reach a certain level.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.