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Turkey-Egypt rapprochement: The consequences for the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece

Σημαίες Τουρκίας και Αιγύπτου
Σημαίες Τουρκίας και Αιγύπτου

After a decade of diplomatic hostility, Turkey and Egypt proceeded with the normalisation of their relations. “They are two powerful countries in the region and they cannot afford to be separated,” Turkey’s new Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, explained.

The two countries’ diplomatic relations were severed after the 2013 coup in Egypt that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government under President Mohamed Morsi. Recep Tayyip Erdogan had denounced the overthrow of the Islamist Morsi by the Egyptian army and the assumption of the leadership of the country by the current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Erdogan even said that he would never talk to “someone like al-Sisi”. The Turkish president also turned Istanbul into a safe haven for exiled members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

However, in May 2021, the first signs of improvement of bilateral relations emerged, when a Turkish delegation visited Egypt.

In 2022, Turkey was the first importer of Egyptian products, with a total value of four billion dollars. Sources in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stress that the economy will play a crucial role in shaping Turkey’s foreign policy in the next five years.

However, Libya remains an important thorn in the relations between the two countries: The government in Tripoli is close to Erdogan, while in Tobruk in eastern Libya, the Egyptian-backed Marshal Haftar dominates.

After all, a considerable distance separates Turkey from Egypt in the issue of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also in the settlement of the EEZs of the two countries. Since 2019, Turkey has signed an illegal memorandum with the government of Tripoli, for the distribution of the EEZ that has been denounced by Greece, the Republic of Cyprus, Egypt, and also the United Nations.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has stressed that the Tripoli government “does not have the required legitimacy to sign agreements, but also the sovereignty in this region” and therefore the agreement is “illegal and unacceptable.” The question now is whether Turkey will manage to lure Egypt into its own politics. And especially if Cairo will continue to strongly support Greek positions in the Eastern Mediterranean…