Türkiye seeks to restore relations with Egypt and Syria


by Burak Akinci

In the past year, Türkiye has set the course to mend fences with regional rivals to end its isolation in the region, and Egypt and Syria are the next in line, Turkish political analysts said.

The symbolic handshake between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was described in an Egyptian presidency statement as a new start in bilateral relations between the two countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also told reporters in Ankara in late November that Türkiye and Egypt may restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors mutually “in coming months”.

Analysts hailed the reconciliation as a win-win strategy for bilateral relations and interests.

“All these developments are showing that Ankara is very eager to normalize ties with Cairo,” Selcuk Colakoglu, director of the Ankara-based Turkish Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, told Xinhua.

He stressed that Ankara’s rivalries with most of the prominent Middle Eastern countries had isolated and alienated it from lucrative energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean where important gas reserves have been discovered.

This fence-mending move comes at a time when Türkiye is witnessing economic difficulties not seen in decades, and the country needs foreign funds more than ever.

“Particularly over the past year, Ankara normalized its ties with the United Arab Emirates and then Saudi Arabia and Israel,” following a string of high-level bilateral visits, the scholar explained.

Osman Sert, a foreign policy analyst and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s press secretary, told Xinhua that it is unnatural for two historic regional powers, Egypt and Türkiye, to be estranged.

“It was against the nature of things that the two countries, especially two landmarks of the Middle East, such as Türkiye and Egypt, were so far apart,” he said.

Türkiye’s relations with Egypt turned sour after former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July 2013 and his Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood group was outlawed, prompting the two countries to expel each other’s ambassadors.

The two countries also sparred over a range of other issues, including the war in Libya, where they backed rival sides, as well as maritime disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, the path towards reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus seems to be a long and winding road, experts said.

Erdogan reiterated last week that when the conditions are appropriate he is open to meeting his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, with whom he broke relations when the Syrian civil war erupted over a decade ago.

“A full normalization of bilateral ties is not that easy like other regional countries because there are a lot of issues between the Turkish and the Syrian governments,” as powers and their proxies are competing in the conflicts there, Colakoglu argued.

And there is also the issue of Syrian refugees, of whom some 3.7 million have taken refuge in Türkiye, causing a major social and economic problem.

“But the developments are positive,” Colakoglu said. “At least diplomatic channels can be opened between Damascus and Ankara and they could open their embassies.” Enditem

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