After Qatar, is Egyptian-Turkish reconciliation on the way?

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With Cairo signing the Al-Ula agreement to reconcile with Qatar, attention turned to Cairo’s other regional enemy, Turkey, which welcomed the agreement and sent positive signals, raising speculation that Egyptian-Turkish reconciliation might be on the way.

The arrival of the Qatari Finance Minister to the Egyptian capital hours after the signing of the Al-Ula Agreement raised much astonishment, even among the supporters of the Egyptian regime, who did not stop attacking Doha at once. Qatari Finance Minister Ali Al-Emadi suddenly arrived in Cairo to attend the Qatari Diar Company’s inauguration, officially the St. Regis Cairo Hotel, which is wholly owned by the company, at the hotel’s headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The opening was attended by the Qatari Minister Ali Al-Emadi, Stephen Mnuchin, the US Secretary of the Treasury, and Mohammed Maait, the Egyptian Minister of Finance, who took photos side by side. A clear message that the economy may be the way to strengthen reconciliation.

Observers considered that the finance minister’s immediate arrival in Cairo carried an implicit message from Doha to the Egyptian regime, that your economic interests are with us, and that the Egyptian regime must move forward on the path of reconciliation. The Egyptian regime has gone through a difficult financial year. The Egyptian regime’s sources of national income and foreign exchange have been shaken by the consequences of the spread of coronavirus.

During his visit, the Qatari minister said: “The St. Regis Hotel represents a new addition to the Qatari investments in Egypt that exceed five billion dollars in various fields.” He also considered that “Qatar, by investing it through Qatari Diar in this distinguished project, practically affirms its commitment to contribute to supporting the tourism sector for its vital role in economic development and job creation.” The St. Regis Cairo Hotel is located on the banks of the Nile Corniche in the heart of Cairo. It is considered one of the most important projects of the Qatari Diar Company in Egypt, whose total investment exceeded $1 billion dollars. The Egyptian tourism sector suffered from a severe shock last year; its revenue dropped by 70 per cent.

Observers say that the economic card with which Qatar is playing for rapprochement with the Egyptian regime may be the same door that opens for Egyptian reconciliation with Turkey. The Egyptian regime is concerned about the consequences of the arrival of US President Joe Biden to the president’s seat in the White House, especially as he threatened General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with not receiving any more blank cheques.

On the other hand, Biden also made hostile statements against the Turkish regime and promised that he would support the Turkish opposition to reach power through free and fair elections. Both Egypt and Turkey seem to need to take a warrior truce and devote themselves to following up on the anticipated American pressure after Biden comes to power.

Politicians indicate that the Egyptian regime views with disappointment its alliance with Cyprus and Greece in the face of Turkey, as this did not prevent the European Union from directing violent criticism of Cairo over human rights. The European Union responded to Rome’s requests to exert pressure on the Egyptian regime against the backdrop of the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni’s murder. Both Cyprus and Greece suffer from many economic problems, which made economic benefits from the Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot alliance minimal. On the other hand, Turkey aspires to break the Emirati alliance ranks against it and is closely monitoring the growing Emirati-Egyptian disputes over several issues.

Turkey is also seeking to strengthen its position on gas and oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, and the loss of Greece and Cyprus to the southern ally (in the southern Mediterranean) would be a painful blow. Ankara also views Cairo as its natural gateway to Africa and a huge investment market with more than 105 million Egyptians. Despite the ongoing differences between the Egyptian and Turkish regimes since 2013 (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted on rejecting the Egyptian military coup in 2013), the two countries’ recent intelligence meetings opened the door to speculation about the future of relations. These signals coincided with Cairo’s rapprochement with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Libya (GNA), which is the party that Turkey supports, instead of the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces backed by the UAE and its ally Egypt.

Observers confirm that reconciliation with Qatar and the need for the two regimes to converge over many regional political and economic issues make Egyptian-Turkish reconciliation possible. Economists point out that some Turkish companies are among the main operators of the textile and cotton industries in Egypt, and the volume of trade exchange between the two countries has not been affected, and they have major interests in the Mediterranean. While politicians consider that the biggest problem is Turkey’s hosting of the Egyptian opposition, others point out that most of the Egyptian opponents now hold Turkish citizenship, and reconciliation with Turkey may be a door to opening a dialogue between the opposition and al-Sisi, who is facing American and European pressure on the issue of human rights.