The Last Front of the Normalization Process: The Development of Turkey-Egypt Relations

The Last Front of the Normalization Process: The Development of Turkey-Egypt Relations
The Last Front of the Normalization Process: The Development of Turkey-Egypt Relations

The Arab uprisings and revolutions that broke out at the end of 2010 created a wave of change that had significant effects not only in the Middle East, but also in all Muslim countries and even the whole world. This process, which was called the “Arab Spring” and started an unexpected series of developments for almost all of its states, started to reverse with the Western states recovering in a short time and pro-status quo states in the region. With the counter-revolutionary movements and developments that started in the middle of 2013, the Middle East region returned to its former state within a few years. The forces of change in the region have largely lost their gains. In Egypt, Libya, Yemen and finally Tunisia, democratic governments were destroyed, old-style one-man regimes were replaced, or these countries were dragged into civil wars.

During this period, Turkey supported the forces of change that came to power with the support of the peoples of the region. He also advised the administrations in the region to listen to the demands of the people and to fulfill the demands as much as possible. However, with the dominance of the status quo powers, all regional and global status quo powers first isolated and then marginalized Turkey. Turkey was faced with serious challenges at a time when the PKK and FETO were also making serious attempts at domestic politics.

Overcoming the problems it faced by preserving its political stability against all these developments and eliminating internal and external threats against Turkey, Turkey again began to focus on its foreign policy breakthroughs. Carrying out large-scale military operations against DAESH and PKK/YPG in northern Syria at four different times, Turkey also intervened militarily in some important regional crises and helped change the balance. It turned out to be an effective and deterrent force in the liberation of Azerbaijani lands under Armenian occupation, the support provided to Qatar, which was subject to the blockade of other Gulf states, preventing its resistance from falling, and the legitimate government in Libya resisting General Haftar with the military support it provided.

In this environment, the views of other regional states towards Turkey changed and they started to respect Ankara. Subsequently, as a requirement of this, the regional states changed their perspectives towards Turkey in a positive way. On the other hand, Turkey has also restructured its foreign policy in the light of new realities towards the Middle East region, which has gained relative stability. In line with this mutual policy change, with the effect of some global developments, a comprehensive normalization process has begun in the Middle East region.

First, in the first month of 2021, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain made a policy change towards Qatar. Later, with the inclusion of other Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, a normalization process began in the Arab world. Thirdly, normalization steps were taken between Turkey and Arab states. Turkey normalized its relations first with the UAE and then with Saudi Arabia. Mutual visits were made in 2022 and many bilateral agreements were signed between the countries.

Turkey’s development of relations with Egypt can be described as the last link of the regional normalization process. As the two important states of the region, it is out of question to ignore each other. The politics of Akara and Cairo, which had already taken different and opposite positions in regional crises such as Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, had begun to harm their own goals. Therefore, both states were waiting for a suitable environment to normalize their bilateral relations. In 2021, some exploratory talks between the parties were held and a positive atmosphere was created for the development of relations. In June 2022, Minister of Treasury and Finance Nureddin Nebati paid a visit to Cairo to attend the annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank.

The development of relations was also reflected in the bilateral trade figures. While the trade volume between Turkey and Egypt was 1.3 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2021, it increased by 85% in the first quarter of 2022 to 2.5 billion dollars. Negotiations were held between the relevant institutions of the two countries in order to further develop economic relations. A meeting was held between Turkish and Egyptian businessmen in Cairo on 23 August 2022 under the auspices of the Turkish Ministry of Commerce.

The expected atmosphere was created at the opening ceremony of the World Cup held in Qatar. Under the mediation of Emir Tamim of Qatar, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President of Egypt Abdülfettah Sisi met face to face for the first time in November 2022 and shook hands. The parties gave signals of normalization by referring to the deep historical ties between them. This positive step raised hopes for normalization of relations, but there were no significant developments in bilateral relations for the rest of the year. The divergence in relations between the two countries continued. In particular, the attitudes of the two countries regarding the Libyan crisis were effective in the continuation of the tension. Despite all this, communication channels between the parties were kept open and low-level negotiations continued.

One of the most important steps in the normalization process was taken due to the great earthquake disaster that Turkey experienced on 6 February. Like many states that have tense and confrontational relations with Turkey, Egypt extended a helping hand to Turkey after this great disaster. Egypt went beyond different types of aid and sent its foreign minister to Turkey. This visit is of great importance as it is the first ministerial visit since the diplomatic relations were interrupted in 2013.

During his visit to Adana and Mersin on 27 February, Egyptian Foreign Minister Semih Şükrü met with his counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and the two ministers made aerial surveys in the earthquake zone. Offering its condolences to Turkey, Egypt sent humanitarian aid to the earthquake area and showed that it is in solidarity with Turkey. During this visit, the process of normalizing relations between the two countries and possible visits were also discussed.

Following the agreement, the first ministerial visit from Turkey to Egypt was held on March 18. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a historic visit to Cairo with the delegation. For one thing, this visit was the first foreign minister’s visit from Turkey to Egypt in 11 years. It has been announced that mutual ambassador appointments will be made as soon as possible in order to maximize diplomatic relations. Secondly, with this visit, Turkey took a very important step in its relations with Egypt, the last country in which it did not normalize its relations in the region. From now on, studies will be carried out to develop normalized relations on the basis of Turkey’s win-win understanding with the entire Arab world.

Third, normalization of relations means abandoning the confrontational and zero-sum perspective. In other words, it is bringing bilateral relations from minuses to zero. Then, cooperation opportunities are determined and cooperation is developed with additional steps to be taken by the parties. As it is understood from the statements made by the ministers of the two sides, a new page will be opened between Turkey and Egypt, and diplomatic relations will be maximized first, and then cooperation opportunities in areas such as economy, trade, energy and tourism will be explored.

Fourth, an important issue is that the authorities of the two countries will consult in regional crises. The two issues on which the relations between the two countries have been the most tense recently are the Libyan crisis and the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. While the Egyptian side expects a policy change from Turkey regarding Libya, the Turkish side expects Egypt to change its policy regarding the Eastern Mediterranean. With the normalization of relations between Ankara and Cairo, it can be expected that there will be new developments in these two issues in line with the interests of the parties. In return for giving some assurances to Egypt regarding Libya, considering Egypt’s sensitivities and seeking a solution together, Turkey also wants Egypt not to be involved in projects that would harm Turkey’s interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Fifth, the normalization of relations between the most important country of the Arab world and Turkey, one of the most influential actors in the region, is of great importance for the political stability and prosperity of the region. Çavuşoğlu emphasized that Turkish companies would be encouraged to invest in Egypt in different economic fields, especially in the trade, energy and transportation sectors, which indicates that economic relations will develop rapidly. Considering the historical relations and cultural closeness between the parties, it can be said that it will not be very difficult to repair the relations.

The article is in Turkish

Tags: Front Normalization Process Development TurkeyEgypt Relations

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