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11/21/2022

The handshake between al-Sisi and Erdogan: A goal scored by Qatar before the game started

The handshake between al-Sisi and Erdogan: A goal scored by Qatar before the game started

Reporting from Cairo / Egypt

The Qatari national team did not score in the opening match of the World Cup, which is currently being held in Qatar, any goal against Ecuador. But Qatar scored the most important political goal in the Middle East this year.

A friendly handshake took place on the sidelines of the opening ceremony between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the presence of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The picture caught the attention of the observers, in a way that decreased the importance of the pictures of the opening ceremony, at least in Egypt.

Photo: Anadolu Agency

Signs of calm

There were many signs of calm between Cairo and Ankara, about two years ago, following years of severe tensions in relations since 2013, following the Egyptian army’s overthrow of the country’s then president, Mohamed Morsi, a situation that Türkiye considered a coup.

The tension in the relations between the two countries during all these years led to restrictions in official communications, which resulted in a major problem in achieving consensus between them in many issues. Thus, core and strategic interests of both were affected.

With signs of calm between the two capitals, many expected a meeting between al-Sisi and Erdogan to resolve the differences between the two countries. Two years ago, we ruled out this imminent meeting, and we described the conditions for normalizing relations between the two countries are as a stew that has not yet matured our article on 3/20/2020. Two years had to pass till the last Sunday’s meeting between the two presidents.

In our article Sisi’s visit to Qatar: a step towards resolving the Libyan crisis: 9/21/2022, we alluded to the important role that Qatar plays as a link in bringing Egypt and Türkiye closer to resolving the Libyan crisis.

Pre-arranged meeting

All this meant that the scene on Sunday came as a natural result within the state of openness of many quarreling regional parties to overcome the reasons for the quarrel that has passed for nearly 10 years.

The Turkish president was clear in interpreting the image of the handshake, which no one expected years ago, when he described the meeting as a first step towards further normalization of relations between the two countries.

Apparently, that meeting was not random. It was arranged and agreed upon in advance. The Turkish president was paving the way for it in the media, when he confirmed upon his return from the G20 summit in Indonesia, during his dialogue with Turkish journalists last week, that he was ready to review his relations with Syria and with Egypt.

The prelude was necessary in the context of previous and repeated statements by the Turkish president that he refuses to speak with al-Sisi.

Mutual interests

With his statements during the return trip from Qatar, he clearly confirmed that his only goal in normalizing relations is the desire to change the Egyptian position towards Türkiye in the Mediterranean – a strategic goal for Ankara.

If interests are the main motive for Ankara to normalize relations with Cairo, they are also the main motive behind Cairo’s acceptance of this. No one denies that Egypt needs to come to terms with Türkiye, one of the most important actors in Libya, to achieve stability in this neighboring Arab country.

The official spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, Bassam Rady, indicated that the meeting is the beginning of the development of bilateral relations between the two sides, explaining that there will be other moves that will follow that first step in order to normalize relations between Cairo and Ankara.

Hence, the statements from both sides confirm a state of openness and willingness on both sides to speak directly and at the highest levels to resolve outstanding differences regarding issues that achieve interests of the two countries.

A cooked enough stew

This level of communication between al-Sisi and Erdogan would not have been reached before the openness of Ankara in its relationship with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the two allies of Egypt, after a state of tension with the two Gulf capitals.

Likewise, it would not have been possible for Qatar to play this role in creating the atmosphere and arranging for that meeting without its close relations with Türkiye, and without the success of Doha and Cairo in bypassing the disagreement that prevailed in their relations during the past years, which was for reasons similar to those that strained relations between Egypt and Türkiye.

According to that, the stew was cooked enough for all parties to sit at the table. Many of the region’s crises, which are the subject of disagreement between the two parties, are on their way to a solution, so that everyone will emerge victorious.

Islam Farag
Islam Farag is an Egyptian journalist, analyst and researcher. He is an expert on Middle East affairs and has contributed dozens of press kits on regional affairs and issues. He participated in many research projects within Egyptian governmental and non-governmental institutions. He has worked in many Egyptian and Arab press institutions as a journalist and analyst. He is interested in issues of the historic relationship of the Arab world with regional and world powers. Also he is interested in power conflicts in the middle east.

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