Egypt-Turkey intelligence talks: Could they conclude in full reconciliation?

Amid the diplomatic estrangement between Egypt and Turkey for years and the mutual media war between them, suddenly, rapprochement between the two countries began after intelligence talks were announced.

Intelligence communication between the two countries coincided with Turkish officials’ quiet statements confirming the Egyptian-Turkish need to coordinate regarding Libya and the maritime border crisis in the eastern Mediterranean region. Since 2013, Cairo’s relations with Ankara have been strained after the military coup in Egypt and the Egyptian army’s isolation of President Mohamed Morsi. The media’s hostile tone has escalated. Despite the tension in relations and the diplomatic rupture and their reduction to the level of Chargé d’Affairs, the trade balance between the two countries increased by 20 per cent to exceed $5.2 billion in 2018, compared to $4.38 billion the previous year. In the first nine months of 2019, trade exchange recorded $4.6 billion, and Turkey came in fourth place in the list of countries importing from Egypt, with a value of $1.3 billion.

Egypt and Turkey

We return to the announced talks at the intelligence level between Egypt and Turkey recently, where the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşolu, said that there are no talks with Egypt now, indicating that there are only talks at the intelligence level. In statements to a Turkish channel, the minister pointed out that “Egypt has not at any time violated the continental shelf of Turkey in the agreement it concluded with Greece and Cyprus regarding the areas of maritime jurisdiction.” He added, “Egypt respected our rights in this regard, and therefore I do not want to underestimate its right under the pretext that the political relations between us are not very good. Therefore, concluding an agreement with Egypt in this regard requires improvement of the political relations.”

The Turkish Foreign Minister’s statements, which praised Egypt’s position in the eastern Mediterranean crisis, came after previous comments by Turkish President Erdogan in which he launched an attack on the maritime border demarcation agreement. Erdogan condemned Egypt’s signing of the agreement and made it clear that it detracts from Egypt’s maritime borders and overloads gas areas and wells for Cyprus, Greece, and Israel, declaring his country’s rejection of this agreement.

Delegation talks

The Turkish Foreign Minister’s affirmation of the existence of talks between Egypt and Turkey at the level of intelligence and his praise of Egypt’s role in the eastern Mediterranean crisis confirmed the recent understanding and rapprochement between the two countries. Observers drew attention to statements a few days ago from Yassin Aktay, the advisor to the Turkish president, in which he stressed the need for contact between Egypt and Turkey, regardless of any existing political differences. Aktay, in a media interview, revealed that there are rapprochements and communication between the parties regarding Libya, after the end of the second round of talks between Egypt and Turkey, hosted by Cairo. News sites revealed that a high-level Turkish delegation met Egyptian officials at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters last August. The Turkish delegation included 17 diplomats and security and military officials, including Turkish intelligence service leaders.

On the Egyptian side, the deputy head of the General Intelligence Service and security leaders participated in the talks, which took place amid extreme secrecy. These talks are not the first of their kind. Cairo previously hosted a Turkish delegation, last June. Turkish President Erdogan confirmed the communication between the two countries’ intelligence services, saying that “the Egyptian side requested in a recent meeting with our diplomats to remove the misunderstanding with Turkey.” The talks, which continued over four days, ended on August 27 and dealt with the Libyan crisis and ways to calm tensions.

Sources added that the talks also dealt with ways to restore Egyptian-Turkish relations and Turkish-Saudi relations. There were indicators of understanding over Libya and the eastern Mediterranean, and the announcement of intelligence talks after a break and escalation between the two countries, prompting anticipation over what will come of this rapprochement and how it will impact on the region.