Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced in a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Ankara that the bilateral exchange of ambassadors between Ankara and Cairo is a new milestone in normalizing relations between the two countries. He said they have now passed an important stage in the normalization of ties with Egypt, and from now on, their relations in the political, economic, and other fields will progress rapidly. Egypt also claimed that the aim of promoting the level of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Turkey is to return the relations between the two countries to a normal state to realize the interests of the two brotherly nations.
In March 2023, the former Turkish Foreign Minister visited Egypt for the first time. In a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, he emphasized the need to take necessary measures to develop bilateral relations. Before that, the two countries presidents met on the sidelines of the Qatar World Cup. The practical step of normalization of Ankara-Cairo relations was taken one month before the Turkish presidential election on April 21, 2023, with the visit of Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, to Ankara, during which foreign ministers of both sides agreed to take concrete steps to improve bilateral relations. Last month, after receiving a congratulatory message from his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the occasion of his victory in the presidential elections, Turkish President Erdogan invited him to visit Ankara.
Relations between Turkey and Egypt were severed after the so-called Islamic Awakening protests in some Arab countries in 2011 and since the coup d’état of the country’s army led by General al-Sisi against Mohamed Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt in 2013. Hosni Mubarak’s removal paved the way for Mohamed Morsi to come to power. A politician who soon gained the attention and support of the Erdogan-Davutoglu team because of the special attitude of the Justice and Development Party of Turkey to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mohamed Morsi would not only sit in diplomatic meetings in Ankara and Istanbul but also at the Congress of the Justice and Development Party in Konya city, next to guests such as Khaled Meshaal, head of the political bureau of Hamas. Various cities in Turkey also became the main centers of political and media activities of the Egyptian Brotherhood. On the other hand, the Egyptian government also accused Turkey of interfering in the country’s internal affairs by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government considered the Muslim Brotherhood a threat to its stability. It accused Turkey of creating a safe haven for the members of this movement, and this tarnished and caused a deadlock in the relations between the two countries.
With the ouster of Morsi in Egypt and the inauguration of al-Sisi, Erdoğan repeatedly took a stand against al-Sisi in his heated speeches during that period. Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood caused severe differences between Turkey and Egypt. With Morsi’s death in prison, which Erdogan called a “martyr,” tensions peaked. The government of Turkey’s “Justice and Development Party,” led by Erdogan, called the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which had a very short life, a “coup,” and Erdogan called the president of Egypt a “dictator.”
Hakan Fidan, the current foreign minister of Turkey, who was the head of Turkey’s intelligence service in the previous government of Erdogan, had full authority to impose the defeat on Khalifa Haftar during the Libyan unrest. It is said that a large number of Syrian Arab and Turkmen dissidents supported by the United States were transferred to Libya with Fidan’s strategy to fight with Haftar’s forces, and by the way, al-Sisi’s support for Haftar was one of the important factors that put the conflict on an erosive path.
These two Islamic countries share historical and cultural ties that date back centuries. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Egypt have faced significant ups and downs throughout history and sometimes faced various crises due to regional events. After years of tension with some Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as supporting the terrorists in Syria and occupying the northern regions of that country, Ankara has been trying to restore its relations with those countries since last year. Turkey’s relations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the Zionist regime have become normal. Political and regional developments in Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt’s increasingly bad economic situation prompted the two countries to reconsider their relations. During the earthquake in Turkey and northern Syria, the Egyptian Foreign Minister visited Turkey and visited the earthquake-affected areas.
One of the important points in Turkey-Egypt relations is the strong presence of the private sector in maintaining and developing business relations. Both countries understand their domestic economic conditions. With its large population and strategic location in the Mediterranean and Africa, Egypt provides opportunities for Turkish business. Turkey’s advanced industries and tourism sector can be of interest to Egypt. Normalizing relations can facilitate increased trade, investment, and economic cooperation between the two countries. With improved relations, banking and customs barriers between the two sides will be removed, and commercial activities will increase.
One of the critical economic issues that made Erdogan eager to cooperate with Egypt was the new developments regarding energy resources in the East Mediterranean Sea. Cooperation between Egypt and the Zionist regime to extract gas and liquefy it and transfer gas to Europe was one of the important developments that took place after the war between Russia and Ukraine. In a situation where Turkey was trying to obtain the privilege of transferring gas from the coasts of Egypt and the occupied territories to Europe, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, visited Jordan, the occupied territories, and Egypt, and finalized the gas transfer contract by ship. At the same time, an important part of Ankara’s motives for normalizing its relations with the Zionist regime and Egypt is related to the issue of gas and the Eastern Mediterranean.
One of the most important challenges in the relations between Ankara and Cairo is the activities of the political and media activists of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2022, the Erdoğan government politely asked several TV channels and Brotherhood news sites working against the Egyptian government in Ankara and Istanbul to remain silent. With Egypt’s insistence on the necessity of ending Ankara’s support to the Brotherhood, many of them left for Qatar and other countries. In a pragmatic assessment, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party government concluded that at the cost of developing relations with the Egyptian government, it would end its support for the Egyptian Brotherhood.