After a decade of political contention and regional rivalry, Cairo and Ankara have decided to restore diplomatic ties.
The two Mediterranean nations announced on 8 July of this year the restoration of ambassador-level relations, with Cairo appointing Amr Al-Hamami as its ambassador to Ankara and Turkey appointing Salih Mutlu Sen as its new ambassador to Egypt.
Al-Hamami and Mutlu Sen have been serving as the charges d’affaires in Ankara and Cairo over the past few months, during which Egypt and Turkey held several diplomatic and security meetings.
Earlier this year, in a series of exchanged visits, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu pledged to undertake ‘concrete steps to raise diplomatic relations to the highest level.
ALLIES, RIVALS, THEN ALLIES AGAIN
Over the past two decades, diplomatic relations between Egypt and Turkey have had their fair share of ups and downs. The ever-changing tapestry that is Middle East politics has placed these two Mediterranean nations in cooperation and opposition on different occasions.
Egypt and Turkey signed a free trade agreement in 2005 to further their economic ties and, two years later, the total trade volume between the two nations was worth USD 4.42 billion.
Following the 2013 protests in Egypt that ousted the late former President Mohamed Morsi, political dispute saw the trade partners turn into staunch foes. Turkey’s opposition to Egypt’s new leadership pushed Egypt to cut diplomatic ties with Ankara and remove the Turkish ambassador from Cairo. The Turkish government then followed suit. Political ties quickly deteriorated further as Turkey harbored self-exiled members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Onwards from that point, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia found themselves at odds with Qatar and Turkey over their backing of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and imposed a regional embargo on the country.
Another significant point of contention arose in 2019 when Egypt strongly condemned Turkey’s military offensive in North-Eastern Syria against Kurdish forces. Egypt called an emergency meeting in the Arab League to address what it called a “brutal invasion.”
Relations further soured after each country supported opposing factions in the Libyan conflict. In 2020, Egypt and Greece became involved in a tense maritime boundary dispute with Turkey over the rights to explore and utilize natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.
At the turn of the decade, newfound common interests in a time of economic hardship pushed the two countries’ political leadership to bridge gaps in the hope of a more prosperous future.
“Things changed a great deal when Qatar reduced its support to the Muslim Brotherhood and began to pursue political and economic cooperation with Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” an anonymous government source told Al-Ahram.
The ban on Doha was lifted in 2021, decreasing regional tensions. Over the following months, Qatar mediated a meeting between President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which the two leaders shook hands on the sidelines of the inauguration of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In a show of goodwill, Egypt released a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which extended condolences to the families of the victims as well as the Syrian and Turkish people, in the wake of the devastating earthquake that killed 1,500 people and injured thousands more.
Another crucial factor in revitalizing the relationship between Egypt and Turkey is the Mediterranean. Both nations, especially Turkey, are keen on establishing a bilateral maritime demarcation agreement to facilitate their investments in additional gas exploration ventures, Turkish sources told Al-Ahram.
Recently, Erdogan has sought to improve relations with several other countries in the Gulf as Turkey looks for funding opportunities in the region to alleviate its economic challenges.
Turkey has made several concessions to Egypt, including shutting down several Istanbul-based television stations run by members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposing the current leadership in Egypt.
As hired gunmen for the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, Wagner, a Russian private military company, remains firmly established in and around the country’s most important oil and military installations. They play a significant role in Haftar’s effort to oust the governments and forces headquartered in Tripoli from power in Libya. Turkey has also promised to pull militants loyal to Ankara from Libya if the Wagner military group’s presence in the east ends, positioning Egypt as the regional mediator of the current Libyan conflict.
TURKEY’S INVESTMENTS IN EGYPT
In his multi-day visit to Ankara, the first by an Egyptian trade minister in a decade, Egyptian Trade Minister Ahmed Samir announced a number of investments in several sectors. On 4 August, representatives from Koç Holding, the largest Turkish investment group, told Samir the group’s plans to expand its activities in Egypt, focusing on vehicles, medical products, and new energy sectors.
Koç Holding is already heavily invested in the Egyptian market, including establishing a factory for electrical appliances with a USD 110 million (EGP 3.4 billion) investment. The factory is scheduled to begin production next year, with plans to export 60 percent of its eoutput to foreign markets.
Samir also held discussions with representatives of the group and relayed their willingness to increase investments in Egypt. The group aims to establish auto-manufacturing and pharmaceutical factories and invest in renewable energy projects in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.
Samir also met officials from Vestel and Zorlu companies, inviting them to Egypt to finalize studies for setting up a factory. Additionally, Turkish companies Milat Carpet and Berdan Civata expressed their interest in exploring investment opportunities in Egypt.
Ziraat Bank, Turkey’s largest state-owned bank, is considering opening a representative office in Egypt to pave the way for establishing a branch in coordination with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).
During his meeting with Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mehmet Fatih Kacir, Samir proposed signing an MoU to enhance industrial cooperation between the two countries, involving officials from both ministries to integrate their economies.
The Egyptian government expressed its keenness to provide full support to Turkish companies operating or planning to operate in the Egyptian market soon.
According to recent data published by the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry, 790 Turkish companies currently operate in Egypt, with total Turkish investments amounting to USD 2.5 billion (EGP 77.2 billion). An additional USD 400 million (EGP 12.3 billion) in investments was added in 2020, spanning various sectors, including medical industries, furniture, cosmetics, food industries, chemicals, and engineering – bringing the total number up to USD 2.9 billion (EGP 89.6 billion).
In 2022, the trade exchange between Egypt and Turkey reached USD 7 billion (EGP 216.2 billion), and Egypt aims to increase bilateral trade with Turkey to USD 15 billion (EGP 463.4 billion) over the next five years.
As both countries look to overcome past differences and capitalize on shared interests, Egypt and Turkey are navigating a new chapter in their relationship, one that sees mutual benefits and seeks stability.
Source : Egyptian Streets