The meeting of the two Egyptian and Turkish presidents, then of the foreign ministers, augurs a clearing in the sky of the two countries. Libyan crisis, gas exploration, Arab “revolutions”, Muslim brothers, … many issues are on the table of a rapprochement that promises to reshape the Middle East. Normalization of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East:
Turkey and Egypt… Is reconciliation coming?
Turkey and Egypt have taken another important step toward reforming their relations following the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Cairo, the first by a Turkish official of that level since the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors nearly a decade ago.
However, the conditions for reconciliation are not yet fully ripe, although political communication between the two countries has reasonably recovered since the launch of talks to reform relations about two years ago and has reached high levels, such as the exchange of visits at the foreign minister level and the two talks held by Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi (the first was a Qatar-sponsored meeting in Doha a few months ago, and the second was a telephone conversation after the February 6 earthquake). Another summit is planned, but the two countries have not yet agreed to swap ambassadors again.
As two countries that have entered a major crisis since 2013 and have been involved for a decade in serious regional polarization, conducted a military proxy confrontation in Libya and clashed in the struggle for the wealth of the eastern Mediterranean, it will not be easy to address all aspects of the crisis at once.
Nevertheless, what gives cause for optimism today in turning the page on the rivalry is that both sides are displaying a strong political will to move forward with reconciliation and are negotiating on more productive political ground. Whereas political communication after the launch of the exploratory talks in May 2021 was limited to diplomats at the level of deputy foreign ministers, communication is now taking place at the level of presidents and foreign ministers.
Moreover, the regional circumstances that previously complicated the Turkish-Egyptian crisis have turned into a catalyst for reconciliation. Two years ago, Turkey initiated a shift in its regional policy, reforming its relations with Egypt’s allies such as the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and restricting the activity of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on its soil. It has also brought about a change in position vis-à-vis the Syrian regime, although this change has less influence on the new dynamics of Turkish-Arab relations. Cairo, on the other hand, did not raise the level of its openness to Ankara and sent its foreign minister to Turkey after the February 6 earthquake, before officially inviting the Turkish foreign minister to visit.
Normalization of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East.
Despite rapprochement, Egypt insists on rejecting presence of Turkish mercenaries in Libya
Libyan lands were one of the most important arenas of entanglement and disagreement between Egypt and Turkey, and despite the efforts of rapprochement between the two countries, sources assure Firat news agency that Libya still represents a major knot on the way to restore normal relations.
The sources said that Cairo rejects, in any case, the presence of mercenaries that Turkey has brought to Libya since late 2019, as well as Turkish forces present in western Libya, following an agreement previously reached between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and the former Libyan Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj.
The sources said the presence of Turkish-backed mercenaries and militias, in addition to the proliferation of weapons outside the state, was a major reason for Cairo’s rejection of an international plan announced by Abdullah Batili, the UN Secretary-General’s representative in Libya, to hold elections by June 2023.
The sources added that what is happening now regarding the rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey is part of the postponement of controversial issues, and works to create an atmosphere conducive to discussion between the two countries, but the issue of the Turkish presence in Libya and mercenaries will never be accepted by Cairo.
Turkish Foreign Minister comments on Egypt’s “unease” with his country’s presence in Libya
On Monday, the official Turkish news agency “Anatolia” quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that the maritime jurisdiction agreement reached between his country and the Tripoli government in Libya “is not against Egypt’s interests,” and that Cairo’s agreement with Greece “is not against Ankara.”
Anadolu Agency reported that the Turkish minister’s statements came at the end of his visit to Cairo on Saturday and following his talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Cavusoglu said that “Egypt took into account Turkey’s interests when it concluded maritime agreements with Greece,” according to the Turkish agency.
Regarding Egypt’s position on the agreement to explore energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, Cavusoglu said, “This is not a problem. Every country concludes hydrocarbon agreements with another country. Egypt is currently opposing this agreement under the pretext that the current government in Libya cannot sign agreements.” Because its mandate is over and it is no longer legitimate, and Cairo did not say that the agreement signed was against it.
And he added: “The issue that Egypt is not comfortable with is our presence in Libya, and we have been saying since the beginning that our presence there is not a threat to Egypt, and that this presence came at the invitation of the legitimate government at that time, and continued on the basis of the desire of subsequent governments, And we still declare that the Turkish presence in Libya does not have any negative effect on Egypt,” according to “Anatolia” agency.
Cavusoglu stressed that “Ankara and Cairo have agreed to continue close consultation and cooperation on Libya,” noting that “Egypt believes that the Turkish presence in Libya or military cooperation between the two sides does not pose a threat to it.”
The Turkish Foreign Minister stressed that “Egypt has security concerns regarding the problem of stability in Libya. He said: “Egypt will benefit greatly from the conclusion of a maritime validity agreement between Ankara and Cairo in the future”.
These are Turkey’s stories about the presence of its mercenaries in Libya
In this context, Muhammad Mustafa, editor of the Middle East News Agency for Foreign Affairs, said that the recent meeting between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Cairo showed a reluctance on the part of both sides to exchange on the situation in Libya, which was only mentioned in passing at this conference, indicating that this issue has yet to be dealt with at a broader level.
The Turkish affairs expert said that Turkey will present a formula including the following points:
— Turkey agrees to expel foreign militias and mercenaries loyal to it, according to a timetable.
— Begin the withdrawal of mercenaries immediately before the elections, provided that their withdrawal is completed after a certain period of time following the transfer of power.
— Integration of the Turkish-linked Libyan militias into the Libyan army, with changes in the army’s command structure.
Mustafa believes that an agreement could be reached between Egypt and Libya under the title of removing the militias and holding elections, but the details are more dangerous because, in his opinion, they will establish Turkey’s continued control over the Libyan political decision.
Return of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East
Normalization of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East: After the outbreak of the Arab rebellions and revolutions in 2011, relations between Turkey and Egypt deteriorated on the one hand, and between Turkey and status quo-supporting Arab countries on the other. As a result, Middle Eastern states split into two camps: pro-change and pro-status quo coalitions. With the consolidation of the status quo and new dynamics, the countries of the region began to normalize their relations with each other.
The first normalization process began among the Arab countries themselves, when these countries normalized their relations with Qatar, and later the normalization process between Arab and non-Arab countries in the region began. In this context, Turkey normalized its relations with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. But starting a similar process with Egypt has taken a long time.
In any case, two major regional powers like Turkey and Egypt cannot ignore each other any longer. Therefore, the two countries devoted appropriate time to holding exploratory talks in 2021. It was difficult to achieve reconciliation between the two conflicting states, but the fact that normalization in the Middle East would remain incomplete without the normalization of relations between Ankara and Cairo made the two of them take serious steps in this regard. Turkey took the first step when Treasury and Finance Minister Noureddine Nabatai attended the annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank in Cairo in June 2022. The positive atmosphere was reflected in trade relations, after the volume of trade between Turkey and Egypt reached $1.3 billion. in the first quarter of 2021, it increased by 85% in the first quarter of 2022 to $2.5 billion. While the economic institutions continued to hold joint meetings to further improve economic relations.
Normalization of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East
The World Cup opening ceremony was also an opportunity for Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to bring together President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. It was the first time they met face to face in 10 years, in November 2022 in Doha. At the end of the meeting, the two leaders stressed the depth of historical relations and indicated an improvement in the normalization process. However, differences of opinion between the two countries persisted in regional crises.
Given the deep historical ties and cultural affinities between the two sides, it is easy to conclude that it will not be difficult to restore relations. The two countries will soon restore their relations and engage in mutually beneficial cooperation. As the changing regional conditions and balance of power require an adjustment of bilateral and multilateral relations, the countries in the region will act accordingly and seek harmonious relations. With all this momentum of recent movements, the circle of normalization in the Middle East will be completed. Normalization of Turkish-Egyptian relations will reshape the Middle East.