Turkey Hails ‘New Era’ With Egypt After Years Of Tension

Turkey and Egypt’s cold diplomatic relations have been ongoing for almost 8 years. The two nations initially severed ties in 2013 after Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi, long supported by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was ousted by the military. According to Al Jazeera, after this turbulent period, Turkey’s foreign minister Çavuşoğlu has stated that a new chapter is beginning between the two nations as Ankara moves forward with normalizing relations with Cairo.

As noted by The Media Line, a recent sign last Friday of the warming relations between Egypt and Turkey was Ankara’s offer to aid Egypt with its Suez Canal crisis by sending a tugboat to facilitate the movement of the large container ship blocking the canal. According to Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu, Turkey would willingly dispatch the Nene Hatun emergency response ship, one of the few ships globally able to assist with such an arduous operation, adding that “we offered to help them and if they respond favorably, we will send help”.

Apart from this gesture, discussion and resolution building for the two main regional issues that defined Turkey and Egypt’s poor relationship, the decade-long war in Libya and conflict over reserves in the Mediterranean, exemplifies the newfound relations between the two nations.

According to Arab Center, Egypt’s support of the Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar, who has been seeking to gain military control against the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, prompted Turkey to militarily aid the GNA. This further heightened tensions between Egypt and Turkey, with Egypt stating that this stance would “negatively affect the stability of the Mediterranean region”. However, as stated by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reports suggest that Egypt is willing to resume close relations with Turkey contingent on its absolute withdrawal from Libya. In fact, Egypt’s decision to reopen direct lines of communication with the Government of National Accord that it once opposed is a clear incentive for Turkey to resolve issues with Egypt. With that being said, according to Yusuf Erim, Chief Political Analyst for TRT, both countries’ choice to end their conflict in Libya is based on a common understanding that Turkey’s interests can be maintained while keeping Egypt’s national security unchallenged, which in turn will help preserve the territorial sovereignty of North Africa as a whole.

Secondly, Turkey and Egypt’s newly improving relations are also a notable symbol for peace and stability in the Mediterranean region. According to the Arab Center, in 2015, when Egypt discovered natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean waters, it used them for economic leverage against Turkey by building alliances with its adversaries such as Cyprus and Greece. In an interview given to Bloomberg, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin says that Turkey vouches that conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean can be resolved if an equal distribution of national resources is prioritized by focusing on mutual respect of the rights of countries and international legitimacy. As reported by Daily Sabah, this standpoint is being echoed by President Erdoğan – Egypt declared its bid for hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean by accounting for the continental shelf boundaries that are under Turkey’s possession according its UN-reported agreement with Libya. Furthermore, representative of Egypt’s respect for Turkey’s territorial integrity, Egypt decided to avoid Turkey’s continental shelf while undergoing seismic exploration. According to Greek daily Kathimerini, this move can be viewed as Egypt’s reluctance to adopt a stance in the Turkish-Greek continental shift controversy and could possibly lead to reconciliation talks in the future.

As of the last few days, Egypt and Turkey are maintaining open channels of communication with a willingness to resolve issues by abiding by principles of non-confrontation. If moving towards normalization continues to proceed as is, both nations can begin adopting plans to not just work on solving the Libyan and Eastern Mediterranean issues, but regional conflicts in a broad sense.