Egypt and Turkey are currently taking part in a joint naval exercise, in another display of improving relations between the two countries. Since President Mohamed Morsy’s visit to Turkey at the end of September there have been many signs that the two countries are looking to strengthen their relationship.
According to a military source quoted by state news agency MENA, the exercise has been dubbed “the Sea of Friendship” and five Egyptian navy units and Egyptian aircraft will take part. Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nazih El-Naggary, said “we do this sort of military exercise with many countries.” The same military source said that Egypt will participate in a similar exercise in 2013, called “Bright Star” with the United States. A biannual event, the exercise did not occur in 2011 due to political unrest in Egypt.
El-Naggary commented, “relations have been improving with Turkey since the revolution for many reasons. During Mubarak’s reign relations with Turkey were often sensitive but there is a cultural and historical relationship between Egypt and Turkey… Turkey has succeeded in improving its economy since the early 1990s and Egypt can learn from that.”
Radha Allam, from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), said, “Morsy has applied the Turkish model to both his campaign and his domestic policy.” Her colleague Mohammed Abdel Qadr added, “Morsy has no experience so can benefit from the relationship with Turkey.”
On the implications for the region, Abdel Qadr was positive about the improving partnership. He believes, “the two countries could help to mediate on issues in the Middle East, for example the situation in Syria. They could possibly help to diffuse tensions with Iran in the region.”
During Morsy’s visit to Turkey he was able to secure a $1 billion loan agreement as a first step in a $2 billion financing plan between the two countries. However, according to MENA reports on Monday, members of the Turkish parliament have been questioning the reasons for the loan. Some MPs pointed to economic difficulties and the increasing budget deficit. There was also confusion as to why the loan was being approved when Turkish people are facing rising prices in their country on commodities such as electricity, petrol and gas. MENA reported that the deputy head of the opposition, Muharram İnce of the Republican’s People Party, queried whether the loan was in Turkey’s national interest, asking “is the goal of the loan to the Egyptian president for the permanence of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood?”
When asked about this debate in the Turkish Parliament, El-Naggary said, “Turkey is a democracy and they have their own system to deal with such things.” He did say, “there have been various exchanges between the ministries of the two countries.” Included in these exchanges was a visit to turkey by the Minister for Tourism, Mohamed Hisham Abbas Zaazou. A spokesperson for the ministry of tourism commented on Monday that the aim of the visit was “to benefit both countries.”
In addition to gaining experience from Turkey, Morsy has looked further afield for advice. According to a statement by the State Information Service (SIS), Morsy met with South Korea’s special presidential envoy Yu Myung-hwan on Monday to discuss, “how to benefit from Korea’s economic experiment.” Presidential spokesperson, Yasser Ali, said, “there are several political, economic and trade relations between the two countries,” according to SIS.