Egypt-Turkey rapprochement continues with positive prospects

“The results were positive.” This was the official Egyptian and Turkish evaluation of the exploratory talks that took place last week in Cairo, amid indications that one or more meetings at the ministerial level between the two countries are imminent.

According to reports, prominent issues were discussed, on top of which is the discussion of the return of diplomatic relations and coordination over Libya and the eastern Mediterranean and the situation of the opposition in both countries. Contacts are being held to activate communication through the parliaments of the two countries officially.

However, there were some points on which the Turkish side requested a transitional period that would enable it to take accurate practical measures and maintain cohesion, explaining that Egypt must deal with them with flexibly not to stop the desired progress. On top of these points is the issue of Egyptians residing in Turkey, fleeing security pursuit, or those who went out in search of better conditions for political and media work.

Ankara insists that it will protect opponents threatened by Cairo, while the Egyptian position revolves around three things. The first of these matters is the lack of objection to the continuation of the Egyptian opposition staying in Turkey, without allowing them to return to Egypt and without issuing them identity papers and withdrawing their Egyptian nationality, and if necessary granting them Turkish citizenship. Turkey does not welcome this suggestion because of its unwillingness to expand the granting of citizenship to all those for whom it will be forced to do so. The second point is Egypt’s desire to retrieve a limited number of figures residing in Turkey which may be political abuse. Turkey refused this point. The third issue is the lack of objection to the return of women, children, and those not wanted by security, on the condition of joint security measures between the two countries. It may take a long time to agree on this.

This issue intersects with the issue of Turkey’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Egyptian regime and that June 30, 2013, is a “revolution,” that July 3 of the same year “was not a coup,” and that the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in “was not a massacre.” This meeting led to the development of discussions on conditions around controlling the media discourse emanating from Turkish territory and stopping the repeated statements of the ruling party leaders on Egyptian internal affairs, away from demanding recognition of legitimacy in itself.

In another issue, direct technical communication is expected to start, which is cooperation in the energy field after the upcoming ministerial meetings. This point comes within the framework of Ankara’s desire to link the discussion about the opportunities and conditions for joining the forum with a topic more important to it, which is the demarcation of the maritime border with Egypt.

The demarcation of the border is “a desired goal for the two countries, and it could be achieved during the current year if certain conditions are met.” However, the current contacts are focusing on taking steps to make future demarcation negotiations possible and easy.

The first facilitating factor for this is the determination of the possibility of the participation of Greece and Cyprus and the extent to which each party accepts concessions to reach an agreement.

The Egyptian-Turkish negotiations are continuing to study a proposal for their participation with the Israeli occupation in the ambitious project to export gas to Europe, considering Egypt and Israel currently possess the largest gas fields in the region than the fields discovered in Cyprus and Greece.

Ambassador Gamal Bayoumi, a former assistant foreign minister, said that Egypt and Turkey reached a positive path in the talks and that normalised relations “are a good thing.” He points to his optimism about reaching positive results for the talks due to many strategic and economic interests linking the two countries.

For his part, Ahmet Uysal, director of the Middle East Centre for Strategic Studies, says he saw positive results in the first round of talks. Uysal reported that cooperation between the two countries contributes to solving problems in the region. He added that the positive developments in Libya and the calm and political dialogue there are in the interest of both parties. He adds that there is a common need and interest for cooperation between the two countries on many issues in the region, expressing his belief that there is a common vision between the two sides.