Turkey-Egypt relations and new equations

 The most talked about news in the Middle East recently is the resumption of relations between Turkey and Egypt. Egypt's elected president in 2013.

 Cairo-Ankara diplomatic relations came to a standstill after General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in a military coup against Mohamed Morsi. 

The minimum relationship that remained between the two countries was at the intelligence level. 

Recent reports from Egypt and Turkey suggest that the resumption of Egypt-Turkey relations is not limited to oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean. 

This compromise could be part of a new equation for the greater Middle East.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has confirmed the resumption of diplomatic talks between Turkey and Egypt. 

"We have contacts with Egypt at both the intelligence and foreign ministry levels," Cavusoglu said. 

The bonds were broken in 2013, not that they can be reunited quickly or easily. 

Lack of confidence in such situations is also normal and can exist on both sides. This is why a specific strategy is discussed under a roadmap and it continues.

Expressing positive views on relations with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the Turkish Foreign Minister said that his country has no problems with the Gulf countries.

Forecast of change

Looking at the latest developments in various countries and regions in the Middle East, it is clear that the ongoing changes here.

First, both sides have begun to work with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to bridge the gap in Turkey's regional issues. 

A precedent for this is the end of the ‘blockade of Qatar’ by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as Egypt; Qatar's relations with all countries have been revived. 

Ankara was also involved in the behind-the-scenes talks to end the blockade of Qatar.

Second, the confrontation between the two sides in Libya and the conflict of interest that was advancing on a large scale ceased. 

The country has established a UN-mediated compromise government, which will unify and consolidate the divided administration in the East and West, leaving the rule or control of an unbroken Libya in the hands of an elected government in a general election next December. 

Turkey has provided all possible military and diplomatic support to the UN-recognized Tripoli government in the Libyan conflict. 

Egypt, the UAE, Russia and France, on the other hand, have backed the Benghazi-led government led by rebel caliph Haftar and Saleh. 

After more than a year of fighting, Khalifa Haftar failed to bring down the Tripoli government due to active support from Turkey. Now all parties seem to have agreed on a new agreement.

Third, Turkey felt very isolated after the formation of an axis between Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel and France to push Turkey's rights to the margins of the Mediterranean. 

Now all sides, even Greece, with the help of the United Nations, are negotiating with Turkey. The Cairo-Ankara agreement on the exploration and extraction of Mediterranean energy will have a huge impact on the region.

 Egypt was the main protester in the maritime agreement between Turkey and Libya's Tripoli-based sovereign government. 

Turkey's agreement with Egypt would give the country more rights to the sea than the Cairo-Greece-Cyprus agreement. On the other hand, Cairo will also benefit from the energy deal.

Fourth, the question of survival for Egypt and Sudan is the construction of the "Annahda"(Renaissance) Dam in Ethiopia. 

Both countries rely heavily on Nile water for agriculture. Ethiopia is building a dam upstream of the Nile. Ethiopia wants to start withdrawing water to fill the dam without a memorandum of understanding with Egypt and Sudan. 

Egypt alone cannot influence Ethiopia. Turkey has recently offered to mediate in the dispute over the construction of the Annahda Dam to Ethiopia. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's special envoy Eroglu said his country was ready to lead Ethiopia's mediation talks on the dam.

 Turkey's involvement in the issue could put great pressure on Ethiopia to resolve the crisis.

The equation of Egypt-Turkey relations

Last month, Egypt announced a "bid" for new oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. According to the 2019 agreement between Turkey and Libya, it was considered as the 'Continental Shelf' declared by Ankara. 

Ankara has taken the Egyptian move as a positive message. And such message was not for the first time . 

Despite criticism of the Turkey-Libya maritime agreement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated at the December 2019 on Rome Conference that the agreement "does not harm Egypt's interests" in the Eastern Mediterranean.

When Egypt signed a maritime agreement with Greece in August 2020, experts noted that the agreement took into account Turkey's position on the island's maritime boundaries.

Cairo recently made some changes to its Libya policy that have brought the country closer to Ankara. Egypt has taken a number of steps in the face of new realities in Libya after Ankara successfully turned General Haftar's campaign. 

Egypt sends high-level diplomatic and security delegation to Tripoli.

Again the embassy announced plans to open. It was the first time since 2014 that the Egyptian embassy has opened in Tripoli.

These messages from Cairo did not escape Ankara's attention. On March 3, Turkey's foreign minister noted that Cairo had shown respect for its country's maritime borders.

 Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu hinted at Turkey's readiness to negotiate a maritime jurisdiction agreement with Egypt.

Three days later, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar emphasized during the Blue Homeland 2021 strategic exercise that "the two countries share historical and cultural values.

When President Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Bloomberg that "a new chapter could be opened in our relations with Egypt," he echoed earlier statements. 

These messages reflect the importance of the issue, especially as it comes from high-level Turkish policymakers.

Mutual interest to enhance the relationship

A carefully crafted message between the two countries can affect not only their common interests, but also international and regional dynamics. 

Joe Biden's victory in last year's U.S. presidential election has forced many regional countries, including Egypt and Turkey, to rearrange policies to align their relations with the new administration.

Egypt was dissatisfied with the outcome of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. 

This is because its allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have not coordinated with Cairo on the issue and have not considered Egypt's interests when they agreed to reconcile with Doha.

The GCC agreement gives Turkey the opportunity to expand its relations with Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, and creates opportunities for compromise with Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates. 

Egypt learned in January that UAE and UAE officials were working to normalize relations with Turkey and build their mutual economic interests. 

But under pressure from the UAE, Egypt reached the brink of a confrontation with Turkey in Libya.

In addition, Greece and Turkey began the first direct talks in five years on the issue of East Mediterranean stagnation.

 At that moment, the United Nations began preparations to convene a meeting to examine whether a solution to the Cyprus problem was possible. 

In such a situation, Cairo has calculated that it will no longer be in its best interests to remain anti-Turkish.

 Especially when the Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean partners are going to build relations with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Israel and even France and Ankara.

 This seems to be the reason for the recent re-establishment of relations between Egypt and Turkey.

The interests of the sea

Israel was wary of criticizing Turkey's position in the eastern Mediterranean, considering its own interests at sea. 

Tel Aviv is relying on the Eastmed Pipeline project to export gas to Europe. The final length of the pipeline is 1,900 km, the cost is about seven billion dollars and it is doubtful whether it will ever see the light of day as it passes through the claimed territory of Turkey. 

That is why Israel will probably want to keep its options open to Turkey. That is why Israel is not opposing Egypt-Turkey relations.

Egypt has similar maritime problems with Turkey. Egypt's foreign ministry and intelligence officials are more in favor of a maritime deal with Turkey than Greece.

Because it will give Egypt many more large seas. But the Egyptian president also agreed not to close Turkey's doors when signing the agreement with Athens for some political advantage. 

Cairo has felt the need, especially in the wake of the UAE-Israel deal, which has hurt Egypt's political, economic and strategic interests.

With these events and Cairo's geopolitical reckoning, Ankara is silently assessing the basis of their common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

 Ankara's carefully crafted messages served as a winning formula. Cairo's interests in cooperation with Turkey are also being brought to the fore.

Indeed, during the pre-coronavirus period, Ankara offered to increase bilateral trade, investment and gas imports to Cairo. 

Their economic relations have also been seen in political ups and downs. In 2016, for the first time, bilateral trade exceeded 5 billion.

 If Turkey and Egypt work together to rebuild Libya, Libya's stability could increase this cooperation to an unprecedented level.

The challenge is still there

Politically, it is important for Turkey to protect Egypt from being held hostage, especially by the United Arab Emirates, Greece and other states. 

These countries want to use Cairo as a shield in their own fight against Turkey. In this sense, Ankara has helped Egypt to be open.

However, the exchange of positive messages between Egypt and Turkey does not mean that their potential relationship will not be challenged.

 It simply means that they are trying not to let differences of opinion stop them from working together in their common interest.

But there are clearly many disguised forces that would prefer conflict to cooperation between Turkey and Egypt to maintain their own influence.

 In contrast to Ankara, there are questions about whether the Egyptian messages are genuine.

It may be that Cairo is seeking to gain strategic advantage by using Ankara to regain its value in the eyes of its partners (UAE, Greece and Israel). 

Or the country aims to strike a fine balance with its options open to Turkey for maximum security, so that it can reap the benefits from all ‘players’.

Such an explanation may be the reason why Cairo sometimes sends mixed or conflicting messages. 

The country may want to expose itself to Turkey without losing the support of others. Either way, establishing contact with Turkey puts Egypt's own agenda at the forefront.

Is a new wind blowing over Arab-Turkish relations?

A new wind of "peace building" is blowing over Arab-Turkish relations, and both sides are helping to ease tensions in the pursuit of common interests. 

Messages of cooperation are exchanged regularly between Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh. And if the situation is right, similar messages could be exchanged from other Arab capitals. It seems that various parties are tired of the proxy war.

The establishment of Egypt-Turkey relations has been discussed above. In the case of Riyadh, the G20 summit seems to have provided an opportunity to boost ties with Ankara. 

The telephone conversation between King Salman and President Erdogan opened the door for a meeting between the foreign ministers during the OIC conference. 

Now the two countries continue to exchange sympathetic messages.

The latest leaked information mentions Turkish-Saudi cooperation in Yemen, which began with Turkey's drone deal. 

Riyadh seems keen to buy the drones after proving their effectiveness in Libya and Azerbaijan. 

Both Ankara and Riyadh recognize the legitimacy of Mansour Hadi as president of Yemen, and both maintain ties with the Houthi (which is fighting against  the Saudi-led coalition) rival Islah Party. 

Moreover, both sides are concerned about the Biden administration's approach, particularly on human rights, and the criticism that the new US president has been making.

Libya was the gateway to Egypt for open and secret dialogue with Turkey. Similarly, Qatar has become the gateway to Saudi Arabia in the Gulf. 

As Saudi-Qatar relations continue to improve, it is clear that relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia are likely to calm down, and that Qatar could play a role.

The political implications of this relationship, especially its impact on the Muslim Brotherhood, will be another story.

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