Egypt unimpressed by Turkish performance in reconciliation process – Steven A. Cook

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu this week announced the start of a new era in relations between Egypt and Turkey. But a lukewarm response in Cairo has raised questions over the success of Ankara’s attempted reset.

Speaking to Ahval’s Turkish Trends podcast, regional expert Steven A. Cook told Nervana Mahmoud that Turkey needed to meet several Egyptian demands before ties would be mended.

This included ending broadcasts from the country against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his government, coordinated in most part by Muslim Brotherhood linked networks in Turkey, and a handover of opposition figures to Egypt, Cook said.

Cook, a senior research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Egypt was in the driving seat in the reconciliation process, and thus far, Egyptian officials had not been satisfied with Ankara’s performance.

Egyptian officials believe there has been no material change in the relationship between the countries, and there won’t be until Turkey’s performance is on a par with Egypt’s demands, Cook said.

Positive reports of progress have mostly come from the Turkish side, but the Egyptians have largely remained mum on the talks, he added.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been fractured since el-Sisi came to power in a July 2013 military coup and launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had forged close ties with the ousted Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi, opposed the military takeover and has frequently denounced el-Sisi as a dictator. Turkey has since become a safe haven for Egyptian exiles opposed to the government in Cairo.

However, Turkey is now seeking a rapprochement as it seeks to divide the emerging coalition between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Cyprus and Israel, Cook said.

Another major issue between Turkey and Egypt is the conflict in Libya, where Ankara has backed the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli against Libyan general Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

Cook said Egypt was taking a hard line against the Turkish presence in Libya in much the same way Greece was doing against a maritime agreement between Ankara and the administration in Tripoli. The deal, signed in November 2019, grants Turkey access to Libyan waters, cutting across territory claimed by Athens.  

Erdoğan hosted new Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Ankara on Monday, in a bid to maintain Turkey’s military and economic sway over the country. Further steps to improve cooperation were discussed during the two-day visit, according to an official statement.

Libyans must be worried about the prospects that Turkey is abandoning them, Cook concluded.