Following the Cairo administration’s display of sensitivity towards Turkish interests during the delimitation of maritime zones in the East Mediterranean, and the warm messages Turkey’s defense minister, foreign minister, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent to Egypt, it seems that the two countries have turned over a new leaf in their relations.
The statement by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu saying, “Diplomatic relations with Egypt have resumed” on his return from Qatar-Doha after his visit to the Caucasus, Turkic Republics, caused a ripple effect, not only in those two countries but also in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Arab world.
Such a development can truly produce results that will heavily influence all the aforementioned regions.
However, the situation must first be clearly grasped.
Çavuşoğlu’s statements is as follows:
“We did not receive any prerequisites from Egypt. We did not stipulate any conditions either. When ties are severed for such a long time, it is not that simple just to act as if nothing has changed. Ties are developing through gradual meetings, by determining a roadmap and acting on those matters. Since there was such disassociation for years, a lack of trust is also inevitable. Therefore, meetings are ongoing within the framework of a certain strategy and roadmap. We have made contact at the intelligence and foreign ministry level. Our diplomatic meetings have begun.”
These words clearly indicate that relations between these two countries that have been at loggerheads for some time have been re-activated. However, is this at the dose we perceive and understand?
Minister Çavuşoğlu’s words do not mean that the two countries are “starting negotiations” that will compensate for the disputes.
When President Erdoğan’s statement saying, “Our intelligence, diplomatic and economic cooperation process with Egypt is ongoing anyway. It is continuing not at the highest level, but right below the highest level. We would like to continue this process with Egypt in a much stronger manner. Thus, if these intelligence, diplomatic, and political meetings produce results, we will carry this to much further stages” reaches its target, dominoes will begin to fall.
Let us look at the news from the Egyptian front.
“Rapprochement/normalization” statements were made by Egypt’s unnamed foreign or intelligence officials to the region’s press outlets and the country’s media outlets. However, as Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry answered questions on Sunday, let us draw conclusions based on this.
“(There is) no communication outside the normal diplomatic framework. If real actions from Turkey show alignment with Egyptian principles and goals then the groundwork will be laid for relations to return to normal, Words alone are not enough. The current situation is a result of the Turkish administration’s attitude against Egypt.”
From Shukry’s statement, it can be ascertained that diplomatic relations with Turkey have started, but that there is no clear emphasis that “negotiations” are underway. This corresponds to Çavuşoğlu’s explanation that meetings are “gradual.” The difference is that, it is going to be as challenging as it is slow.
Taking into consideration Shukry and the Egyptian media, it cannot be said that Cairo is eager to accelerate or facilitate the process.
Furthermore, “A genuine change in Ankara’s foreign policy practices that comply with Egypt’s policies,” and whether Turkey will conform to seek compliance with Egypt’s principles and objectives may lead to certain deadends.
It's still unclear whether Egypt taking a step back from its position/policies in the Mediterranean, Africa, Libya and the Arab world, will be incumbent on Turkey keeping mum on its internal affairs.
The sort of sacrifices that Egypt may expect from Ankara concerning the objectives of its partnerships with Greece, Greek-populated Southern Cyprus, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also questionable.
These show us that we are at a nascent stage, such that the climate allowing relations to flourish needs to be strengthened.
Nonetheless, the reactions of actors such as the U.S. and Russia, which are present in the counter-strategic compartments of the region, to this normalization process is also a matter of curiosity. It seems that it is not immediately possible to decide whether the U.S. will pave the path for these steps or what Russia will do and vouch for the position it will take.
While there is some truth to the acceptance that Egypt is the U.S.’s puppet, that it cannot even go to the toilet without U.S. permission, it cannot be considered that Washington is supporting the normalization. Egypt is still a country that has its own individual reflexes!
Though it is obvious that Turkey-Egypt relations will not return to their previous format at the drop of a hat, even the discourse that ties could be thawed will echo in all corners of the world.
Turkey’s note to the EU, Greece, and Israel – following reciprocal statements – “Our approval must be sought in operations concerning the continental shelf in the East Mediterranean” is not unrelated to this agenda.
This is very much like the president’s “invitation” to Joe Biden after the missiles launched from Russian ramps in Syria hit elements of the Syrian opposition!
Finally, academics, media members, foreign policy enthusiasts, who are on different fronts regarding Egypt, whether they are close to the government or not, need to be given a friendly warning.
We must advise those who advocate reconciliation with Egypt screaming, “We told you so,” and those who previously slammed Cairo now racing to embrace the pyramid nation to be moderate in their outbursts – because they cannot even imagine the reasons underlying this slight amelioration of ties!