Lately, reports questioning the recently re-booted relations between Turkey and Egypt and the rumors that ties are in fact not all “sunshine and rainbows” are on a rise in Egyptian and Gulf media. From the very beginning, Gulf media has been doing everything in its power to sabotage even the slightest possibility of normalizing relations. In fact, it is clear that Egyptian media, the slave of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also stopped itself – even if for a short period – from revealing too much during one stage of these discussions.
They are claiming that Turkey’s lack of compliance to the conditions stipulated when ties were on the mend is one reason why Turkey-Egypt relations are going south. However, this claim is problematic. Unfortunately, all well-intentioned messages emanating from Turkey concerning its ties with Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, have, since the very beginning, been misrepresented as Ankara backing down from all its claims, and finally submitting to autocratic Arab regimes.
This perception reflected in Arab media is not monitored closely enough by Turkey, and as a result, the policy this calls for is not being implemented either. Surely the manner in which Turkey is expressing its good will during the normalization of relations is seriously problematic in itself. There is no need to appear as if you have abandoned years of ethical and humanitarian discipline in order to propose new and well-intentioned relations with certain countries – especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, Arab media are currently pouncing at some careless statements made, distorting them to their own advantage, basking in the glory of damaging or ruining the magnificent Turkey image that has been reigning for two decades.
Particularly, they are presenting Turkey’s sustained presence and ever-increasing influence in Libya as a sign of Turkey’s non-compliance to the requirements this normalization stipulates.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who attended a porgram on AlJazeera TV during a visit to Qatar, openly stated that Turkey’s military presence in Libya is one of the most important matters of dispute that must be solved in meetings between Turkey and Egypt. Shoukry added that the complete withdrawal of foreign soldiers in Libya is something the UN also wants, that Turkey is not an exception, and that its presence is interrupting normalization or the process of turning a new leaf in relations.
Although Shoukry, who stated in the same interview that Egypt is waiting for Turkey to fulfill the conditions stipulated in order for any normalization to occur, did not say exactly what they are expecting from Turkey in terms of these conditions, it is obvious from the increasingly critical discourse reflected in Egyptian media that they expecting Turkey to do the impossible.
The impossible, before anything, is the extradition of the political figures who have sought asylum in Turkey. Asking to return political refugees to a country where politicians have recently suffered a coup and collective execution decrees are passed with the most arbitrary judgements is, in fact, to sabotage any chance of a sincere normalization with Turkey from the start.
One other impossible move expected from Turkey is, of course, the withdrawal of Turkey’s military presence in Libya. Was this really demanded from Turkey during negotiations, and if so, how did Turkey respond? Turkey is the only country whose presence in Libya is based on international legitimacy. Turkey is not there as an occupier; it is there upon the legitimate government’s request and call for help, and for as long as the invite lasts.
Upon the AlJazeera TV presenter’s insistent question, Shoukry had no choice but to include Egypt among all the countries that need to pull out of Libya. However, what everybody sees and ascertains is that asking for Turkey to withdraw from Libya is to want warlord Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, to establish control over the country. They are already providing all the logistic and military support they want to warlord Haftar, who is currently positioned in the country’s east. The sole obstacle preventing his sovereignty over Libya via coup is Turkey’s presence. Tying the normalization of Turkey’s relations with Egypt to such a condition, as far as I know, is not a subject of this process anyway.
Moreover, re-booting Turkey-Egypt relations is not the result of any obligation on Turkey’s behalf. Turkey reached out purely out of its good intentions. Extending this branch, before anything, is a well-intentioned response to certain demands from Egypt. Otherwise, as we have been saying from the very beginning, this normalization is more so something needed and requested by Egypt itself.
However, the representation of Turkey as if it has an obligation towards Cairo that is being used to fool Egypt’s own public, is a sly policy. There is, also, the aspect of using the likelihood of this relationship as a means of negotiation with its allies in the Gulf. Besides, there is also the possibility of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s style of politics to produce much greater gains from this perception plot.
Therefore, it will thus help to clarify the boundaries of this policy.
First, reaching a consensus on one issue does not mean that we agree on everything. Turkey has extremely deep disputes on numerous matters with the U.S., Russia, Iran, and even Israel, yet they are continuing the communication necessary for common interests on certain other matters. There is no reason why the same level of relations cannot be established with Egypt as well.
Second, the good will exhibited by Turkey with respect to re-establishing these relations is not a declaration of defeat or submission, and does not require it to abandon the ethical-humanitarian policies it has been adamant on until now.
Third, Turkey’s presence in Libya is completely legitimate, therefore it is not up to Egypt to question this. Egypt does not have any right over Libya to question Turkey’s presence. By supporting Haftar, who is there as a putschist and whose crimes against humanity have been proven, Egypt has already lost all rights to say anything.
Turkey’s presence in Libya is not an invasion or grounds for instability or division. On the contrary, it is a form of solidarity with brethren intended to return Libya to the Libyans.