And they posed for a photo.
After 9 years of crises, President Erdoğan and his Egyptian counterpart al-Sisi met in Qatar.
There are claims that it was not just a photo, but also a short meeting.
Qatar is reportedly the mediator.
There has been a lot of ebb and flow between Türkiye and Egypt in the recent period. First, messages were conveyed through different channels. The parties weighed each other up.
Türkiye then took concrete steps on the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-ikhwan al-musliman) and restricted their activities within Türkiye.
Shortly afterwards, the delegations of the two countries met in a format open to the press.
After the second meeting, both sides remained silent for a while. And after a while, Egypt announced that the talks were terminated due to the Libyan issue.
A few weeks later, Erdogan and al-Sisi posed for the famous photo along with Sheikh Temim, the Emir of Qatar.
We are now in a new, positive, yet fragile process.
As a person who has been working to restore Turkish-Egyptian relations, I can say the following without further ado:
- Despite the photo, the process is still fragile and vulnerable to provocations. Especially in the context of Libya… It is important that the two countries urgently establish a mechanism for coordination on this issue. At least sharing of information reciprocally, if not cooperation, would prevent provocations.
- A slight misstep on the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood could lead to another stalemate in relations.
- Some politicians and representatives continue to approach Egypt with a rhetoric such as “the Ottomans ruled Egypt for 400 years, they need our advice” or are ignorant of foreign policy and believe that they can win Egypt over only through “religious fraternity”. These should be excluded from the normalization process. What we are dealing with is a 4000-year-old civilization.
Similarly, those on the Egyptian side with complexes and who see Türkiye as a historical enemy should not be allowed to sabotage relations.
Both sides should keep in mind that the relations are between equal and independent countries. We need a well-grounded rational mind, not a fancy orientalism or European mimicry.
- Although the Eastern Mediterranean seems to be the burning question that needs to be addressed immediately, it would be better to first wait for relations to get back on track by time – more than just posing for a photo. More efforts are needed to enhance mutual trust. First of all, both sides should appoint ambassadors. Afterwards, the requirements of “soft diplomacy” should be fulfilled, including progress in economic relations and joint activities in culture and arts.
- One should also not forget that in the past 9 years, Egypt has entered different engagements and cooperations with the West in issues of the Eastern Mediterranean. It is not possible for Cairo to suddenly break away from this front. It would be beneficial for Ankara to take these facts into account when developing its policies. At this point, it is worthwhile to present Egyptian officials and the public in more detail on the gains for Egypt in case of a possible Turkish-Egyptian Maritime Border Agreement.
- It is undeniable that the Egyptian people have a great affection to Türkiye. However, especially among the middle class, Ankara’s support to the Muslim Brotherhood has caused a great deal of distrust. Steps should be taken to overcome this loss of trust.
- Perhaps most importantly, it has to be kept in mind that any direct or indirect involvement of the US/UK or Israel in the relations between the two countries will poison them once again.
Phone calls from Cairo tell us that a nice breeze is blowing from one side of the Mediterranean to the other.
Let’s hope that the mistakes that will cause storms will not be repeated.