On several occasions over the past period, Turkey has expressed its desire to develop ties with Egypt.
Such a desire has been manifested in official statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Chairman of the Security and Foreign Policy Council of Turkish Presidency and chief adviser to the President Ibrahim Kalin, who all sent overt messages to be heard in Cairo.
These three figures are exclusively involved in articulating Turkey’s foreign policy orientations. Their statements had deep in their folds assurances of a real will that has recently taken shape, geared towards removing any obstacles that preclude reaching more appropriate formulas, in line with the interests of both countries.
Seemingly, this foreign policy team was behind the proposal to form a negotiating delegation that would engage in dialogue with the Egyptian side towards restoring relations between the two countries.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry received these calls with prudence and equanimity, stating that such meetings would initially be more of “horizon-scanning” sessions given the deep problematic issues that marred the relations between Cairo and Ankara over the years that followed the June 30 Revolution and Egypt’s launching of its national project that had national security requirements at the heart of it, which necessitated that Egyptian regime to involve in a major strategic plan primarily concerned with the acquisition of elements and tools of the all-encompassing power.
Perhaps in those early years following the 30 June Revolution, Egypt’s orientations were questioned by the Turkish side, which drove Ankara too far and gave rise to the events that took place over the past years, which we are in no position to bring up today.
During these “exploratory sessions”, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry showed positive openness towards the Turkish keenness to restore relations, provided that Ankara undertakes a comprehensive review of its orientations in the region, taking Egyptian interests and determinants into consideration.
Egyptian assessments of these rounds of negotiation held in Ankara and Cairo indicated that a true has been taking shape on both sides to lay down principles consistent with interests of both countries yet there are still “outstanding issues” which Egypt’s foreign ministry described as “fundamental”, including those related to the situation in Libya, which are indeed of high significance to Egypt and have slowed meaningful progress on this.
For Egypt, Libya, which is located in Egypt’s immediate vicinity, is a national security issue; as such, no compromise is acceptable on it. Cairo has clearly laid down its relevant requirement: political stability in Libya shall be only achieved through a purely national consensus through the elections without recourse to force or arms.
This requirement achieves Egyptian interests, respects the interests of others, and doesn’t interfere with the interests of Turkey or the supreme interests of Libya. It would have been better for Ankara to wait for a stable elected political system in Libya rather than pushing for divisions within the vulnerable Libyan interior.
Seemingly, following the Cairo Declaration, there has been a positive response from Egypt to a Qatari mediation or the like to arrange a meeting between President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Turkish President Erdogan on the sidelines of the 2022 World Cup opening, to which both were invited.
A meeting at such a level would have been needed to evaluate outcomes of the exploratory negotiations and give an impetus to positive openness from both sides, towards reaching solutions and consensus that seem closer than ever.
Evidently, the Turkish regime had made a real “turnaround” to formulate a new pattern of the relationship with major countries in the region, where conformity with them would secure Turkish interests which will not be achieved unless these relations are mended.
Egypt, which is a significant gateway to the region, has in its hands numerous cards through which Turkey can achieve a large amount of benefit in case obstacles are removed and settlement is negotiated, in light of the developments the region is witnessing and being affected by.
On the Eastern Mediterranean gas, Cairo can play a pivotal role in settling disputes between Turkey and both Greece and Cyprus, given its distinguished relations with the two countries, towards reaching a formula for cooperation that allows Turkey to fulfill its dream of becoming an active member in the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
This requires some flexibility from Turkey and its abandonment of some of the steps it has taken recently. This could be possible if real gains could be achieved amid a global energy crisis, which needs innovative ideas that can maximize the gains of the main regional actors.
For its part, Cairo continues to demonstrate prudence towards any intervention in the affairs of Arab states, particularly when armed force is used. Ergo, Ankara has to review its conceptions towards Arab issues and respond positively to what President Al-Sisi puts forward, whose ability to achieve balance that transparently and subtly achieves the interests of everyone has been proved, leading him and Egypt to gain trustworthiness and reliability in the region and worldwide.