The article titled “Proposals for normalization in Turkish-Egyptian relations” by our columnist Mohamed Sabreen, Managing Editor for Al-Ahram Newspaper, has drawn quite a lot of attention within Turkish political circles.
The possibility of a rehabilitation of Ankara and Cairo relations, which have been trending downwards since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in 2013, have been widely discussed.
Aydinlik, one of Turkey’s well-established newspapers, brought Sabreen’s statements calling Turkey to negotiate with Egypt to this week’s agenda on top of some relevant quotes from Turkey’s leading experts and politicians.
In evaluating Sabreen’s statements, our columnist at Uwidata, Rear Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, has indicated that Turkey and Egypt are the two key countries necessary to establish long-lasting peace and stability in the region. Gurdeniz used these expressions: “In this new period after the Covid-19, countries in the Eastern Mediterranean ridge should be focused on the social and economic crises they will soon face, and not on creating more tension and conflicts. We understand the Egyptian security and geopolitical concerns. And Egypt should understand Turkish concerns. At this point, Egypt should not fall into a conflict with Turkey at sea, as is constantly provoked and mentioned – especially in documents prepared by the US. Neither have any maritime jurisdiction problems in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first place. Turkey’s issues are with Southern Cyprus and with Greece. In reality, Egypt and Turkey are in historical union. The two leading major powers in the Turkic and Arab worlds must mutually understand and accept each other’s positions in their respective spheres of influence and in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
‘EGYPT SHOULD NOT JOIN THE FRONT AGAINST TURKEY’
Gurdeniz, noting that Egypt i has proven its success in peace and dialogue in the best way possible, also said: “Egypt has fought with Israel three times before, but the relations they established with this country after the Camp David Accords have prevented a full-fledged war between the Arab World and Israel for at least 47 years. Similar success can be achieved in relations with Turkey as well. Therefore, a new chapter in our relations should be started, and Egypt should not get involved in the anti-Turkey campaign initiated especially by Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration on the political, economic and military fronts. To re-emphasize once more, the main cause of the Egyptian-Turkish conflict is not due to the maritime law, it is due to political-ideological differences.
Turkey, on the other hand, should stay away from Ikhwan-based politics which caused harm for our foreign politics more than good, creating rivalries and misunderstandings – instead, it should act accordingly to the foreign policy principles of a secular republic.”
‘WE HAVE NO ISSUES WITH THE EEZ’
Stating that the two countries have no issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, Gurdeniz said that “Egypt and Turkey are riparian states. Turkey and Egypt have no problem on the issue of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Other countries that intervene in the region are causing these problems. Egypt should not fall into the trap of the United States, France, Cyprus and Greece. The Egyptian stance on Libya is also wrong. Egypt continues to recognize a warlord and support him with its military capabilities instead of recognizing the legitimate UN-recognized government in Libya. We understand the Egyptian security concerns about this issue as Egypt and Libya share a very long border. However, these concerns cannot be fixed by the warlord under imperialist control.”
Brigadier General Fahri Erenel also expressed his thoughts on Sabreen’s article. In his statements for Aydinlik, Erenel noted that: “Turkey and Egypt have cooperated on many international platforms throughout history. But in this process, the countries have held differing political views and the relations between these two countries are currently at a very low level. However, in Egypt, the opinion of Turkey is generally positive.” While stating that Egypt is struggling with economic difficulties, Erenel has said: “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) provides some economic support for Egypt (…) Egypt has nothing to gain from supporting Haftar’s forces in Libya. There have been terrorist border crossings and terrorist incidents at the Libyan-Egyptian border for many years, but it is almost impossible to take control of these remote areas. Here, we can consider Egypt’s activities in Libya to be a consequence of their economic issues.”
“GREAT BENEFITS FOR BOTH COUNTRIES”
“Currently, Egypt is unable to reap the benefits of the planned pipelines in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish-Egyptian relations have to normalize in this respect (…) After some time, the signing of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Agreement will be crucial for both countries. Better economic and political relations would be of great benefit for both countries.”
Erenel added: “If you take a look at the situation, you will see that Greece and Southern Cyprus have reacted harshly to the agreement signed between Turkey and Libya, while Egypt has remained silent. That is because the agreement between Libya and Turkey has brought benefits to Egypt as well (…) Egyptian-Turkish rapprochements and agreements are actually more important for Egypt, which is becoming gradually isolated more in the region, than they are for Turkey. Egypt and Turkey are the two most powerful countries in the region. Egypt must reassess its current situation and its relationships and restore them to their former glory.”
“A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR RECONCILIATION”
Onur Sinan Güzaltan, another of our authors and an expert on the region, also evaluated the possibility for a rehabilitation of relations between Egypt and Turkey for Aydinlik, saying: “My impressions from my contacts in Cairo so far was that there were some individuals in the Egyptian State who wanted to normalize the relations with Turkey, but the US-Israel-Gulf axis were oppressing these groups. Sabreen’s call was an important exclamation, and I hope that he will receive attention from the relevant groups. It seems likely that such calls will continue if the right messages will be given. The world is reshaping in light of the pandemic. There are no actual reasons for Turkey and Egypt not to improve their relations. We have to act bravely. The interesting point in Sabreen’s article is that the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, contrary to similiar situations in the past, was not addressed as a condition of negotiation. This should be noted. We are proposing a process which can achieve positive results if we sit down at the negotiation table with Egypt, but special attention needs to be paid to the provocations originating from the Gulf. After al-Sisi came to power in 2013, Turkey shifted away from Egypt in every aspect. Steps should be taken with the new events in Cairo in mind. We are in a process wherein the rulers of the two countries need to leave the past behind and focus on the future. Active cooperation between the two countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria will bring endless opportunities to both Ankara and Cairo, and will bring peace to the region.”
“THIS CALL MUST BE ANSWERED”
Fatih Altayli, one of Turkey’s most important journalists, also expressed his opinions about Sabreen’s article. Altayli evaluated the call from Egypt in his article titled “This call must be answered” with the following statements: “A very important call came from Egypt. Not official, but semi-official. The managing editor of Egypt’s famous “Semi-official newspaper” Al-Ahram made this call via an article. It has been emphasized that the two countries have many common interests, particularly in gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, and that cooperation in many issues, from Libya to Syria, will benefit them greatly. There are no unacceptable conditions in this call, on the contrary, they are all quite reasonable. Only some restrictions on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are being requested. This is an important call which will offer Turkey quite a bit of relief. Although this is only semi-official, Turkey should not leave the call unanswered. This could be a very important milestone for our position in the region. If it is considered too early for a negotiation between the nations, Al-Ahram can at least be answered here in the Sabah newspaper.
There is information within the political corridors of Ankara that the positive statements from Egypt are being evaluated with positive feedback from the Turkish government, especially the Foreign Ministry.
There have been comments on the necessity of making sure the positive messages in Sabreen’s article reflect the opinion of the Egyptian government before the Turkish authorities can take any steps.
In the coming days, it seems likely that steps will be taken by Turkey and Egypt toward cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, let us hope they pan out.