The reopening of ambassadorial relations between Cairo and Ankara is simply one of Egypt’s new diplomatic orientation, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s new course of constructing a multipolar world, which Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed and has actively promoted. Cairo has selected Amr Al-Hamami as its ambassador to Ankara ahead of the annual declaration on diplomatic appointments, which is generally made in late spring or early summer. At the same time, Ankara announced the selection of Salih Mutlu Şen as Turkey’s next ambassador to Egypt.
According to the sources, the news permits both new appointments to work on preparation for President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s summit. The summit is expected to take place within the next few weeks, most likely in Ankara, and will be followed by Erdoğan’s visit to Egypt. The resumption of high-level relations will allow officials from both nations to collaborate on a variety of plans for political, economic, financial, cultural, and military cooperation. Al-Hamami and Mutlu Şen have served as chargés d’affaires to Ankara and Cairo for the previous few months, during which time Egypt and Turkey have continued their diplomatic discussions and security consultations. Ten years ago, diplomatic representation between the two Mediterranean nations was reduced as a result of Ankara’s opposition to the political developments in Egypt that summer.
According to the renowned Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, “so much has changed since then, both for Egypt and Turkey as well as for the region.” Ankara’s decision to accept Muslim Brotherhood leaders and permit them to “lobby against the Egyptian state” was once thought to be the cause of tensions between Egypt and Turkey. An Egyptian newspaper commentator said that “once this is over, everything will be ready to move forward and other differences will be resolved through political consultations.” The main issues were political lobbying against the “Egyptian state,” Ankara’s support for Islamist groups seen in Cairo as political rivals, and Turkey’s “influence” in Libya, Egypt’s western neighbor, through “fighters it brought in to support a political group in Libya aligned against” Cairo. Egypt and Turkey pursued opposing political agendas and allies in 2013 and for a number of years after. This has now changed, and both countries are now engaged in economic collaboration and other forms of cooperation.
According to several Turkish media outlets, tensions with Egypt were “never favored by the Turkish diplomatic establishment, although they were very popular among the Turkish president’s political party.” When Erdoğan decided it was in his interest, he convinced his political electorate to meet Egypt’s key demands. Specifically, suspending the transmissions of Muslim Brotherhood satellite TV channels based in Istanbul in exchange for finding “some solution for Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members without jeopardizing any of their safety.” Cairo took the decision at the time because it, too, wished to end the antagonism between the two countries.
According to Egyptian and Turkish media, the painstaking process of reestablishing full diplomatic ties began in 2019 with discussions on security matters in Libya. At that time, it became abundantly clear that both parties were eager to prevent a full-scale conflict on Libyan soil. The disputed maritime border treaty that Ankara concluded with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in November 2019 was negotiated thanks to the consensus-based de-escalation agreement.
There is no doubt, the Mediterranean is crucial to the revival of Turkish-Egyptian relations. Both nations, particularly Turkey, want a bilateral marine delimitation pact that would allow them to participate in additional gas exploration. The subject of maritime border demarcation has been on the table of technical negotiations since the announcement of high-level talks between Turkey and Egypt in May 2021. However, it was not on the agenda of El-Sisi and Erdoğan’s brief meeting in Doha last November. Despite the prospect of Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh, Prime Minister of Libya under the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, joining the two presidents in Ankara, the matter is unlikely to be discussed in depth at their meeting later this summer. “This is a whole new diplomatic scene,” according to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry. Egypt, the Ministry claimed, now has a “calm” relationship with Dbeibeh while being unhappy with its former Libyan friend Khalifa Haftar “due to his role in the current Sudan conflict.”
Western diplomatic sources in Cairo confirm Khalifa Haftar’s aides’ role in facilitating the delivery of ammunition and fighters to the Rapid Support Forces, which have been fighting the Sudanese Armed Forces since mid-April. Egypt is ready to put an end to a conflict that undermines the stability of its southern neighbor, and it is also concerned about the stability of the Sudanese Armed Forces. According to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Cairo has received a “clear word” from Turkey that it will remove all extremists supported by Ankara from Libya.
The knowledgeable Al-Ahram newspaper claims that Egypt’s closer ties to Turkey and less cooperation with Haftar are a part of a new diplomatic landscape that has been developing for several years. They also mentioned improved relations with Qatar, which facilitated the first meeting between El-Sisi and Erdoğan. In June 2017, it should be recalled, Egypt joined its then closest allies UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in imposing a political and economic blockade on Doha for supporting political Islamist groups. In 2021, after mediation by Kuwait and Oman, Qatar was reintegrated into the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Egypt joined the rapprochement and in November 2021, Amr El-Sherbini presented his accreditation to the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. According to Egyptian newspapers, “today Qatar is closer to Egypt” than other GCC partners. “Much changed when Qatar reduced its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and began to develop political and economic cooperation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” Al-Ahram wrote.
Egypt is exploring “a shift in its relations with Iran,” in addition to Qatar, Libya, and Turkey. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry revealed that “talks and mediation from both Iraq and Oman have been ongoing for some time” and that the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia will “facilitate the chances” of Cairo and Tehran establishing diplomatic relations. However, “bilateral issues” must be agreed upon before such a move is made, mainly “security issues” and “religious issues.”
In 1979, Iran severed ties with Egypt in retaliation for that country’s harboring of the ousted Shah. There have been several attempts to reestablish full diplomatic ties since then, all of which have failed due to Cairo’s worries about the lack of progress on security issues, including Tehran’s support for regional militias and Islamist groups as well as on how to handle Shiite missionary activities. There are numerous prospects for economic collaboration with Iran, but it is challenging to conceive such a step ahead in the absence of a clear understanding on these topics. The discussions between the two parties over the past 18 months show that both sides have the political will to advance, and we may anticipate some kind of high-level political encounter between Egypt and Iran in a regional gathering before the end of this year. A “forthcoming official announcement” regarding the restart of direct flights between the two nations may also be close at hand, according to airline EgyptAir.
When seeing such peaceful relations being built between once feuding states, one realizes that the new multipolar world being created by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies is gaining strength and preparing the grave for the old dilapidated world of power, hostility, and robbery, led by the US.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”