Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed yesterday to his country’s news agency that the “Diplomatic contacts” between Ankara and Cairo, after both countries actually broke off relations in 2013 following General Al Sisi’s military coup against the Egyptian Islamist regime.
Cavusoglu warned that full diplomatic relations “will take some time”, which does not prevent the two countries from soon reaching agreements in a series of strategic areas that will presumably change the face of the Middle East.
The most immediate, according to the analyzes, refers to the conflict over delimitation of territorial waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, rich in gas and other hydrocarbons. Ankara feels isolated in the dispute with the rest of the riparian countries – especially with Greece – and considers it viable to reach an agreement with Cairo to count on its support in the rest of the disputes with the European capitals.
For its part, Egypt is interested in ironing out its differences with Turkey over the armed conflict in Libya. Cairo backs the eastern rebels led by General Haftar. Turkey supports the government of Tripoli, which seems to gain positions in recent months both in the military and diplomatic fields. If Tripoli finally prevails, thanks to the economic and military support of the Turks, Egypt wants an honorable solution for the army of Haftar. in the future Libyan armed forces.
The secular regime of Al Sisi also approaches the Ottoman Islamist Erdogan – who in his day did not hesitate to describe the Egyptian president as a “coup leader” – to form a bloc in front of Israel, which continues to gain positions in the Gulf area. For decades, Egypt has played a key role as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, but the approach of the Jewish state to the Arab regimes in the Gulf, with the acquiescence first of the Trump Administration and now of the Biden Administration, leaves Cairo to in front of a ministry without portfolio. The alliance with Ankara could put the Egyptians back on the pitch.
An obstacle that stands in the way of full covenant is called Qatar. Turkey supports the tiny and very rich Gulf emirate, against the bloc formed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which maintain a blockade against Doha for different reasons. The one in Egypt is called Muslim Brotherhood. The leaders of the Islamist political movement, which briefly ruled in Cairo after the fall of Mubarak, and was overthrown by Al Sisi, would be refugees in Qatar according to Egyptian authorities. But a dose of pragmatism would allow the dispute to be settled. The resumption of relations between Turkey and Egypt could culminate in the medium term with the lifting of the Arab blockade of Qatar.
The marriage of convenience between Turks and Egyptians is imposed above their political postulates. The regime that emerged from the 2013 military coup is openly secular, after the disastrous experience of the Islamist period of the Muslim Brotherhood, which deepened the economic crisis and social anguish of a nation culturally alien to the rigor of Sharia, Islamic law. Turkey has instead embarked on the opposite path with the Islamist regime of Tayip Erdogan – the ‘new sultan’ for his ability to retain power – which does not hide its political agenda to progressively Islamize the country.
Above these fundamental differences, and the rhetorical excesses of the past between Erdogan and Al Sisi, pragmatic reasons prevail. A quick deal to exploit energy resources would be a relief for Turkey, which is running out of foreign reserves, and for Egypt, which last year had to ask for another bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism