Signs of thaw appear in Egypt-Turkey ties, yet reluctant and conditional

By Mahmoud Fouly Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/14 20:48:39

Recent remarks made by the Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministers indicated "reluctant and conditional" desires to normalize bilateral ties that have been tense since the military removal of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, said Egyptian political experts.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Egypt is facing a security threat and a serious economic crisis.

"We don't want to see Egypt like that. We want to see a great Egypt," he added, showing Turkey's willingness to restore relationship with Egypt provided the most populous Arab country stops its crackdown on Morsi's loyalists, mostly from the now-blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group.

"We do not want our relations to be sour," Cavusoglu told state-run Anadolu news agency, noting relations between Cairo and Ankara worsened due to disagreement of visions on the Syrian crisis besides Morsi's military overthrow.

On Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said he considers Cavusoglu's remarks strange and contradictory despite some "good points," and rejected Turkey's interference in Egypt's domestic affairs and "the Turkish minister's elaborative evaluation of Egyptian economic conditions."

Political science professor Hassan Nafaa said that the Turkish foreign policy is changing and that the country has started a new beginning with Russia and Israel.

"I believe Cairo-Ankara ties will be resumed sooner or later and it's just a matter of time," Nafaa said. "However, the situation is more complicated as Turkey facilitates the Brotherhood group."

He said that he thinks that a brave decision is needed from either side, but there is not enough political will for that now.

The Egyptian economy has been suffering recession over the past five years due to political turmoil, leading to declining foreign currency reserves from $36 billion in early 2011 to $17.5 billion in mid-2016, with a budget deficit of over $35 billion in the fiscal year of 2015-16, 11.2 percent of the country's GDP.

The Turkish-Gulf dialogue has been resumed after a three-year pause due to tense relations after Turkey condemned the ouster of Egypt's Morsi and opened its borders to his fleeing loyalists.

However, the Turkish government's tone toward Egypt has recently changed, making reconciliation possible, especially as it is pushed by Saudi Arabia and its affiliates.

"It is in Egypt's favor to have good relationships with all regional powers, especially those with political and economic weight like Turkey. I believe some countries seek a Sunni alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to face the ambitions of Shiite Iran," Nafaa explained.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has so far remained silent on the July 15 coup attempt against Erdogan. Also as a non-permanent UN Security Council member, Egypt showed reservation to a joint statement backing Erdogan's government and rejecting the attempted coup.

"Due to the isolation after the coup attempt, Turkey needs to reopen channels with regional powers including Egypt and Syria," said Mohamed Mohsen Abul-Nour, a researcher into international affairs.

He noted that the remarks of Turkish officials over the past couple of months showed "leniency and flexibility" toward Egypt and Syria, arguing there could be some unannounced negotiations between Cairo and Ankara to normalize ties based on Gulf mediation.

Abul-Nour echoed Nafaa's opinion that any Saudi-led Sunni in the face of the Iran-led Shiite in the Middle East region needs the biggest Sunni regional powers, namely Egypt and Turkey, the reason why Saudi Arabia is working on their reconciliation.

"But a fast reconciliation is unlikely because what has been ruined over the past three years will take some time to rebuild," the researcher added.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared on Xinhua.

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