New in the Egyptian-Turkish relations

Egyptian-Turkish relations in the twenty-first century witnessed many successive fluctuations and changes.

It was characterized in its first era by friendship and cooperation with the regime of President Mubarak. This indicates that in July 2010, Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Egypt and accompanied the Egyptian President in the graduation ceremony of the students of the Military College, and participated in the distribution of medals and medals. In the following year, Prime Minister Erdogan turned against the Egyptian president and demanded that he give up power, and allied with the Brotherhood’s regime of rule during the period (2012-2013), and when this regime fell after the June 2013 revolution, he returned to hostile the Egyptian state.

Erdogan did not leave an international occasion without repeating these accusations, such as his speech at the memorial service of President Nelson Mandela and his annual speech at the United Nations General Assembly. At the same time, Erdogan opened the doors of his country to the fugitives of the Brotherhood leaders, some of whom were judged, and provided them with media platforms to attack the Egyptian state, and direct the most severe accusations against it. The tone of Turkish hostility towards Egypt continued for years, then began to change in the past few months.

In September 2020, Erdogan flirted with Egypt, indicating that dialogue with Cairo is possible, and that if there is a common space for understanding between them regarding Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey must view this matter positively, adding that there are non-public contacts between the two countries. In a positive gesture, the Turkish Defense Minister affirmed that “Egypt did not bypass the rules of international law in the agreements delineating its maritime borders with Greece and Cyprus.” On December 27, the Turkish foreign minister stated that “there are contacts between the two countries at the level of intelligence services to improve bilateral relations.”

The second week of this March witnessed a second wave of Turkish conciliatory statements with Egypt. A spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey emphasized “the strong ties between Cairo and Ankara.” The Minister of Defense referred to the common historical and cultural values ​​between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister stressed that there are intelligence and diplomatic contacts with Egypt, and that the coming days will witness a new round of talks, and he praised Egypt’s respect for the rules of international law and respect for Turkish rights when demarcating its maritime borders, adding that it is possible to negotiate with Egypt to sign a treaty to demarcate the maritime borders between them.

At the presidential level, a spokesman for the Turkish presidency stated that “a new page can be opened in our relationship with Egypt as well as the Gulf states to establish regional peace and stability.” President Erdogan’s statements confirmed these trends, as he stated that there is cooperation between the two countries in the fields of intelligence, diplomacy and economics. He shrewdly pointed out that the relations between the Egyptian and Turkish peoples are stronger than their counterparts between the Egyptian and Greek peoples.

For its part, the Egyptian official statements were brief and cautious. A Foreign Ministry statement in September 2020 stated that “Turkey’s approach lacks credibility.” In a speech to the House of Representatives on March 14, 2021, the Egyptian Foreign Minister indicated that “there are no relations with Turkey outside the normal channels,” and that “negative political stances towards Turkish politicians do not reflect the relationship between the Egyptian and Turkish peoples,” and that Egypt is keen on the friendly relations that bring together. Between the two peoples, and that “if we find there is a change in Turkish policy, non-interference in internal affairs, and the adoption of regional policies in line with the Egyptian policy, this may be a ground and a starting point for normal relations.” The implication of this statement is that Egypt expects actions from Turkey, not words, and for Turkish practices to change in bilateral and regional relations that led to a state of rupture between the two countries.

There are various interpretations regarding the reasons that led Erdogan to adopt a conciliatory policy with Egypt. Some argue that this is due to the stalemate and impasse in the policies of confrontation and hostility that he followed, which led to the signing of European Union and United States sanctions on Turkey. Others attribute this change to Turkey’s internal economic and political problems. Some third parties claim that the direct cause of this change is Erdogan’s fear of the new US administration’s policies towards Turkey. During his election campaign Biden described the Turkish president as an “authoritarian ruler,” the foreign minister considered Turkey an “untrustworthy” party, and the Foreign Ministry condemned violations of the rule of law and human rights in Turkey.

Whatever the motives, Turkey sends clear and repeated signals to Egypt and the Gulf states of Turkey’s desire to open a new page of relations between the two parties. The question is whether these signals represent a change in Erdogan’s vision of Turkey’s regional role and his abandonment of ambitions to expand influence and control over other countries, or is it a tactical maneuver in which the tools and methods of movement change to adapt to new international conditions only.
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