SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 20 September 2021, Monday |

Egypt and Turkey: Ice melting relations?

Not long ago, regional heavyweights Turkey and Egypt were nearly at the brink of war over the conflict in Libya.

Last summer, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi said he was prepared to deploy troops to Libya, where Turkey was backing the Government of National Accord, if the militias took the town of Sirte from the Cairo-supported Libyan National Army and moved towards Egypt’s borders in the east.

But fast forward to March 2021 and the situation is vastly altered.

There is a ceasefire holding in conflict-wracked Libya, a new unity government is in place and the Egyptians are moving ahead with reopening their embassy in Tripoli – the seat of the Ankara-backed Government of National Accord.

Meanwhile, Turkey is sending out a multitude of direct overtures to Egypt, speaking of the cultural and historic ties binding the two Muslim nations. Ankara has highlighted the geostrategic strength they could gain if they buried the hatchet, improved relations and concluded a maritime demarcation deal.

Cairo, however, has made it clear that it is looking for actions not words from Ankara if relations are to improve.

Experts say a Turkish-Egyptian thaw is possible, even if it remains distant for now.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “intelligence” and “diplomatic” contacts with Egypt have resumed and praised Cairo for respecting Turkey’s exclusive maritime zone when it announced a tender last month for oil and gas exploration in the East Mediterranean. President Recep Erdogan said if such contacts produced results, they could move to a higher level.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry on Sunday confirmed contacts between Cairo and Ankara were taking place but said that dialogue was limited.

“[There is] no communication outside the normal diplomatic framework. If real actions from Turkey show alignment with Egyptian principles and goals then the groundwork will be laid for relations to return to normal,” Mr Shoukry told Egyptian lawmakers on Sunday.

His comments echoed a terse but carefully phrased statement by the Foreign Ministry at the weekend that quoted an unnamed “official source” as saying the contacts with Turkey did not amount to a resumption of diplomatic contacts.