Opinion| Türkiye and Egypt: For better times with many opportunities

Omer Onhon
6 Min Read

I have been to Egypt so many times during my career as a diplomat in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on each visit, I appreciate the many beauties and dynamism of this country.

I also see many reminders of our common history in Cairo. In fact, the same is valid in Istanbul with beautiful buildings such as Khedive Kasrı, Sait Halim Paşa Yalısıand the Egyptian Consulate building which was built in 1902 as a summer house for Khedive Abbas Hilmi Pasha.

Diplomatic ties between Türkiye and Egypt were established in 1925.

Omer Onhon, Former Turkish diplomat
Omer Onhon, Former Turkish diplomat

Throughout these years, at times, there have been fluctuations in relations. In this regard, the last decade in relations has been marked by political strains between the two countries but now, we are witnessing a process of return to normal.

I would like to emphasize at this point that relations between Türkiye and Egypt are based on solid foundations built by common history and deep social and cultural ties.

On 20 November 2022, Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met in Doha, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup.

Following the devastating earthquake of 6 February in Türkiye, Egypt was one of the countries which came with support. President Al-Sisi telephoned to extend condolences to his Turkish counterpart. Egyptian planes and ships carried relief assistance to Türkiye.

On 27 February, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, was at the port of Mersin on Türkiye’sMediterranean coast, with his Turkish counterpart, to meet the Egyptian ship carrying aid and then they made a helicopter tour over the earthquake hit areas.

The most recent development was the visit of MevlutÇavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye when he came to Cairo 0n 18 March, on the invitation of his Egyptian counterpart. They met with their delegations and held a joint press conference afterwards. They made very promising statements as regards the relation between their two countries. They pointed out that the new era would affect not only bilateral relations but the Eastern Mediterranean and the whole region.

During the last decade when relations were not on a normal track, economic relations continued unhindered and even improved.

Trade volume between the two countries increased every year.

2014: $4.9bn

2018: $5.4bn

2021: $8.2bn

2022: $9bn

Main exports from Türkiye to Egypt are; motor vehicles, iron and steel products, machinery and electrical machinery, petroleum derivative fuels and plastics and products.

Main exports from Egypt to Türkiye are; plastics and various products of plastics (plastic raw materials, polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC), nitrogen and nitrogen fertilizers, industrial oils produced from petroleum and parts of electrical machinery and equipment.

Most of the major instruments and mechanisms in bilateral economic relations are already in place.

The Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2005 and came into effect in 2007.

Turkish-Egyptian Joint Committee, High Level Trade Consultation Mechanism, Business Forum and Business Council are long established as mechanisms to lead economic relations. As these mechanisms function more effectively, economic relations will further flourish.

Natural gas has opened up a potential new area of cooperation. Türkiye has already become one of the major importers of LNG from Egypt and there are ample opportunities for cooperation in this field.

There are around 200 Turkish companies in Egypt with an investment volume of about EGP 2bn. These companies provide employment (direct and indirect) for about 90 thousand Egyptians.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met on 26 February, with representatives of Turkish companies in Egypt. The Prime Minister stated that this meeting is a step towards stressing the importance of trade and economic relations between Egypt and Turkey.

There are many similarities between Türkiye and Egypt:

-The two countries are two pillars at the southern and northern end of the Eastern Mediterranean.

-Their geographic locations are strategic and central in their importance.

-They are located on transit routes and have favorable global market access.

-With a population of 85 million people for Türkiye and 107 million for Egypt, they are very attractive domestic markets.

-In both countries, a young and dynamic population makes up a strong and competitive labor pool.

-Both are tourism and culture destinations with incredible history, cultural heritage, sun and sea.

The two countries may look as if they are competitors but in fact they complement each other. Cooperation between them would multiply their advantages and gains.

Good political relations between Türkiye and Egypt will have implications well beyond their own borders. Many regional issues will be easier to address. Security and stability in the region will get stronger. Cooperation in third countries will pave the way for new horizons.

The opportunities ahead are really very promising.

I would like to conclude on the note that I am grateful to my friend Moustafa Moharram, a leading public policy expert, for suggesting to me to write this article.

Omer Onhon: Former Turkish diplomat and former assistant of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Middle East

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