OPINION: Turkey and Egypt need to walk the talk


by Dalia Ziada

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They need to go beyond the talk, to walk the walk necessary for making it happen and stay.

After the failure of the second round of exploratory talks on reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey, one can easily claim that neither the Turkish nor the Egyptian side is sincere about restoring ties. On September 7-8, Egyptian and Turkish diplomatic delegations, headed by deputy foreign ministers, met in Ankara for the second exploratory talks on normalizing ties. Following the meeting, a brief bilateral statement confirmed the two countries desire to progress on normalizing relations and agreeing to continue consultations on regional issues of common interest. Ironically, the press statement is very similar to the press release that was issued at the conclusion of the first round of talks that took place in Cairo, in early May. That simply means failure of talks.

It seems that Cairo and Ankara are satisfied with staying at this love-hate phase of the relationship and are not willing to put the appropriate effort and time into turning the ugly page of the past conflicts and starting a new page of cooperation. That can be seen very clearly if put in contrast with the successful reconciliation processes that have been happening in the region, since the beginning of the year; either between Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), or between Egypt and Qatar.

Since the beginning of Afghanistan’s fall in the hands of Taliban, an unprecedented diplomatic activity among the countries of the Middle East, especially in the Arab Gulf region, has been activated. The UAE, for example, managed to restore all of its broken regional ties, in less than ten days. That includes the relationship with its top two regional rivals, Turkey and Qatar. The surprising part about it is that the reconciliation happened in almost no time, despite long years of bruising fights and declared animosity.

On August 18th, UAE’s National Security Advisor, Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayid, traveled to Ankara to meet with Turkish President Erdogan and offered generous UAE investments in Turkey. This meeting was followed by a phone call between UAE’s most powerful leader, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayid, and Turkish President Erdogan. The phone call was “extremely friendly” as described in a statement by UAE’s Foreign Affairs Advisor.

A few days later Sheikh Tahnoun met with Prince Tamim of Qatar. This meeting was followed by a meeting between Prince Tamim and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, on the margin of Baghdad Summit on August 28th, wherein they confirmed the brotherly bond between Qatar and UAE and the need to drop their conflicts and start a new page in their relationship.

Saudi Arabia, too, has been able to fix its relationship with Turkey, however through a slower and more stable process, than Turkey-UAE almost overnight reconciliation. After the election of the Democrat Joseph Biden as President in the United States, in November 2020, Saudi Arabia decided to end its regional conflicts with Turkey and Qatar. The process started by high-level communications between Saudi and Turkish officials before and during the G-20 Summit. Then, in May, Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Turkish President Erdogan spoke on the phone to discuss reviving bilateral relationship. This call was immediately followed with an official visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister to Jeddah.

On another level, the relationship between Egypt and Qatar has been miraculously restored in a very short time. In January 2021, a declaration of reconciliation was signed between Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, in the Saudi Arabian city; Al-Ula. Since then, the relationship between Cairo and Doha has been moving forward on a steady pace until it reached a peak point last month, when the Egyptian President El-Sisi and Qatari Prince Tamim held a cordially meeting on the margin of Baghdad Regional Summit, on August 28th.

Meanwhile, the reconciliation process between Turkey and Egypt is still stuck, despite the talks and flowery statements asserting the brotherly bond between the two countries, and the urgent need for them to cooperate for the good of the entire region. Most probably, the leaderships of both states are using these so-called dialogues to neutralize one another for as long as possible, so each can handle domestic and immediate regional problems in peace. The hot and cold blows between Turkey and Egypt have been going on for about six months, and the only thing they achieved is calming the loud noise of the media wars that have been going on between them for more than seven years. Yet, no tangible diplomatic or political progress has been achieved.

Egypt and Turkey need to take the reconciliation process between them more seriously. They need to go beyond the talk, to walk the walk necessary for making it happen and stay. Figuring out a reliable future path for sustainable long-term cooperation between Turkey and Egypt is essential for the security and stability of the heated regions of the Middle East, east Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean.

Article first published on The Levant.

Dalia Ziada is Director of Liberal Democracy Institute. She writes on Militancy and Islamism, and about MENA affairs. She tweets under @DaliaZiada.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.

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