A New Dawn For Egypt and Turkey


Photo source: Al Jazeera

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

After Erdogan’s election victory in May 2023, Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi telephoned his Turkish counterpart to offer his congratulations.

Sisi later revealed that the two presidents had immediately decided to elevate diplomatic relations between the two countries and to exchange ambassadors.

Although it is interesting that Egypt and Turkey have retained strong trade ties despite the diplomatic rift: Egypt was among the top twenty markets for Turkish exports in 2022, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

After a decade of hostile relations following Sisi’s 2013 overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, it seems that Turkey and Egypt are newfound friends.

In recent memory, Turkey served as a haven for Muslim Brotherhood members, as sweeping oppression was launched against them back home. It had irked Egypt for many reasons.

A renewed relationship now between the Eastern Mediterranean's two largest military powers is likely to shift geopolitical dynamics in the region and could resolve key stalemated issues, according to The New Arab.

This could have implications for highly volatile ongoing crises, such as in Libya, Sudan, and the Eastern Mediterranean maritime dispute.

According to Dr Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute: “It's quite a big game changer because Egypt and Turkey are the two large Sunni Muslim powers in the East Mediterranean, and they both see each other as the region's hegemon.”

Turkey and Egypt’s decade-long dispute was driven by three main factors: Erdogan’s continued support of the Muslim Brotherhood after Sisi ousted Morsi in 2013, the backing of competing factions in the Libya conflict, and Egypt’s engagement with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean maritime dispute.

Dr. Khalil al-Anani, a senior fellow at the Arab Centre in Washington DC, told The New Arab that current normalisation between Egypt and Turkey began in 2021 with multiple rounds of talks between officials from both countries, which paved the way for opening a new chapter in their relations.

The rapprochement is mainly driven by two important factors: Firstly, the internal socio-economic problems both countries are facing for a while which prompted them to reduce their tensions and become open for dialogue and mutual interests. Secondly, the regional de-escalation created a new positive atmosphere to mend bilateral relations between Cairo and Ankara, which included the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rehabilitation of the Assad regime by regional powers, and the resolution of the diplomatic rift between Qatar and its GCC neighbours.

Turkey fell into a recession in 2018 and its citizens are still struggling to navigate the effects of sky-high inflation, estimated to stand at over a hundred percent annually. The economic crises played a critical role in the recent elections.

Likewise, Egypt is tackling its own economic woes, as the state spends over forty-five percent of its budget repaying its mounting debt burden. It also faces core inflation of around forty percent.

Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst on the Atlantic Council, also told Voice of America that an extension of the Black Sea grain agreement is a major relief for Egypt because the Russian war on Ukraine has caused great shocks to food, energy, and other markets.

For Turkey, as a result of its economic worries, in 2019, Erdogan began to set anew his policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood and Middle East in particular, to cultivate investment flows from the Gulf.

Turkey has even taken steps to put Sisi’s mind at ease. It has already taken some measures against the Muslim Brotherhood over the past two years, where it shut down the anti-Sisi satellite channel, Mekamleen. These measures helped to defuse tensions and build trust with Cairo.

Like its new ally, Egypt is also reliant on investment flows from the Gulf to solve its liquidity needs. Egypt is in the process of selling a series of state assets to Gulf investors to bring in much-needed foreign direct investment.

On a bilateral level, Turkey and Egypt have reasons to work together directly. Geopolitically, Turkey may need Egypt’s support to resolve the Eastern Mediterranean crisis, in which Turkey and Greece are locked in a battle over the maritime border.

One of the main issues of contention that further harmed relations between Turkey and Egypt was their backing of competing factions in Libya. Turkey and Egypt are locked in some strategic rivalry there with Egypt backing Khalifa Haftar in the east and Turkey backing the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. It is quite apparent now that the two countries are making up, and it probably suggests that they're going to resolve some of their differences in Libya. If that becomes fruitful, it will be good for Libya's stability.

In Libya, where they back opposing sides, Egypt and Turkey’s foreign ministers have affirmed that they share a common desire to hold elections in Libya to break the deadlock.



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