Egypt and Türkiye are the major countries in the region, it will be to the benefit of the peace, prosperity and regional cooperation in the Middle East and in the Eastern Mediterranean in general, as well as in Africa and in Eurasia.
Over the past months, Egyptian-Turkish relations have been thawing at the state level following a decade-long rupture. In the latest round of the recent rapprochement between Türkiye and Egypt, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Cairo in March and held bilateral talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.
The visit followed a visit by Shoukry to Türkiye also in March, to express Egypt’s support following the devastating earthquakes in the southeast of the country that have taken the lives of over 50,000 people, which comes as a signal of a new warmth in Egyptian-Turkish relations.
This started in November 2022, with a brief encounter between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It was followed by remarks from Erdogan indicating that he is keen to end the rupture between the two countries.
On the economic front, the two countries maintained strong ties despite the frosty diplomatic relations. Türkiye was the largest importer of Egyptian products in 2022 totalling $4bn. Also in February, a delegation of 14 representatives of Turkish companies visited Cairo and met with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries.
On the sidelines of an Iftar event held by the Turkish Embassy in Cairo, Daily News Egypt interviewed Turkish Charge d’Affaires Salih Mutlu Şen to find out more about the future of relations, and possible areas of cooperation between the two nations.
How do you see the future of Egyptian-Turkish relations after the recent rapprochement?
The future of the relationship will be to the benefit of two important countries and to the benefit of their interests and will continue to flourish in line with the wishes of the two brotherly nations.
I am convinced about this. It is not a wish, but it is what I definitely see in the future, with the common will of the two governments and the strong support of the two nations.
And this will be, of course, as Egypt and Türkiye are the major countries in the region, it will be to the benefit of the peace, prosperity and regional cooperation in the Middle East and in the Eastern Mediterranean in general, as well as in Africa and in Eurasia.
Will Türkiye seek to join the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum anytime soon? Will we see any progress in this regard?
Let me say that already Türkiye and Egypt are closely cooperating in energy issues.
Türkiye needs a lot of gas and in the future, it will continue to buy Egyptian gas. Egypt has one of the largest LNG facilities in the region and Türkiye has one of the largest regasification of the LNG in the region.
So we are happy to buy Egyptian LNG and then it will go through regasification and then will be used for domestic consumption or it can be transported to Bulgaria, and Greece. So we want to expand this cooperation because I can see that Egypt will continue to discover gas on its soil and in its exclusive economic zone and in the Red Sea.
So we are more than happy to continue to buy Egyptian LNG and maybe in the future oil. Also buy petrochemicals, and fertilizers from Egypt.
What is the current volume of trade exchange between the two countries?
The trade exchange between Türkiye and Egypt stands at around $9.2bn, inclusive of energy. Without the energy, it stands at around $7 bn.
But in any case, what is important is Türkiye is the largest export market of Egypt yes, excluding energy and I can assure you that this will continue to be the case in the future because our two countries are geographically close to each other, shipping route and airline routes are close, and we also have a free trade agreement.
How can we boost it further?
The best way to do it is to continue to support the implementation of free trading agreement. and promote investments.
So in the future, for example, there may – and I personally think – there will be many Turkish companies who will come and invest in Egypt, especially in textiles. So the Turkish producers in Egypt, the new ones as well as the existing ones, will also sell to Türkiye and to Europe and to the USA and to other countries in the region.
Egypt has great manpower which no other country has in the region. The population is very young, talented and so what is needed and also location wise, Egypt offers the best location for shipping because you need to ship the goods that you produce at low transportations cost.
With the given advantages of the Egyptian economy, labour, energy and shipping routes, and strategic location Egypt is best placed to attract certain sectors of the Turkish economy who want to expand into Africa, through Egypt and Europe and to the USA, of course, create additional capacity and sell in the larger Egyptian markets.
Some of the Turkish investors might start a new business in Egypt. Because Egypt offers both a huge internal market besides export opportunities. So many companies, many of our companies actually benefit from this.
For example, our largest, we have two large investors here. One is Hayat Chemicals and the other is Jade Textile. So, for example, Hayat produces both for the domestic market and for exports.
Egypt’s domestic market offers another advantage. It’s a buffer for the investors. They don’t depend only on export, but also they can sell in the market itself. In case exports face difficulty. So I see a lot of potential in trade and economic cooperation.
I can see a future where within ten years, the trade volume can easily go up to $20 billion. When you look at the figures for the last ten years, it keeps growing. We can say that Turkish and Egyptian economies are in general complementary.
Regarding Libya, are we seeing any alignment between the Egyptian and Turkish visions regarding the future of elections over there?
Both countries genuinely and strongly support the holding of the elections as soon as possible. They both look forward to holding the elections. Türkiye and Egypt are both members of the International Contact Group on Libya and of course, they are always talking and they both support the United Nations’ efforts and forth holding of the elections to ensure unity, territorial integrity and political independence of Libya.