Opinion| A New Era of Cooperation: How Cairo and Ankara Can Shape the Future of the Region

Hatem Sadek
6 Min Read

The tension in relations between Cairo and Ankara after the revolution of 30 June 2013, is a thing of the past. The future looks bright after the visit of Turkish President Recep Erdogan to Cairo, which signals strong potential for cooperation at all levels, from economic and commercial ties to political and diplomatic relations. The two countries can also work together to address the regional challenges and conflicts, ranging from Libya to Sudan and Ethiopia, from Gaza to Syria and Iraq.

Despite the political rift, the trade between Egypt and Türkiye has remained robust. Trade exchange between the two countries rose to $7.7bn in 2023, up from $6.7bn in 2022. This figure is expected to more than double, as both President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart agreed after their meeting in Cairo to boost trade exchange to $15bn annually and to enhance joint investments.

On the regional front, several important issues require the collaboration of Egypt and Türkiye to resolve the disputes.

One of these issues is the demarcation of maritime borders, which has been a contentious topic in the diplomatic dealings between the two countries. In 2020, Egypt and Greece signed a maritime border agreement, based on a similar agreement Egypt signed with Cyprus in 2003. The agreement with Greece in 2020 was seen as a response to the 2019 maritime border agreement between Türkiye and the Western Libyan government. Similarly, when Egypt launched the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in early 2019, it invited all Mediterranean countries to join, including Türkiye.

In the following years, Türkiye tried to lure Egypt several times by offering it a larger continental shelf than what its agreements with Greece and Cyprus stipulated, on the condition of signing a bilateral agreement with Ankara. But Cairo stuck to the principle of not interfering or harming the rights and interests of others.

The reality is that the growing role of the forum opens up the opportunity for more cooperation among the Mediterranean countries, including Türkiye, Greece, and Cyprus.

There is no doubt that Cairo can keep its balance in foreign relations, and the resumption of relations with Ankara will not affect its relations with Greece and Cyprus, which are Cairo’s allies in the eastern Mediterranean. They also have disputes with Ankara over maritime borders and oil and gas exploration rights. On the contrary, the restoration of relations will help ease the tensions and create the atmosphere for better relations between Ankara and both Athens and Cyprus.

Therefore, any agreement between Egypt and Türkiye on maritime borders will have a positive impact on the overall situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Regarding the Libyan issue, there is an understanding between Cairo and Ankara to find a way to handle the Libyan situation or reduce the friction in this issue. This may also help pave the way for a settlement in Libya, including securing international support for holding elections in the country and unifying Libyan state institutions.

As for Gaza, the crisis in the Strip has been exacerbated by Ankara’s support for Hamas, which is opposed by the Palestinian Authority. Egypt, on the other hand, recognizes the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. The two countries need to align their visions to help restore peace and stability in Gaza after the war.

Egypt and Türkiye are key players in the region. They cannot afford to ignore each other, and they need to understand each other’s interests and concerns. Although they have had a long and difficult history of disputes, they have recently made progress in improving their relations. This is a positive sign for the region, which requires more cooperation and less confrontation. Egypt and Türkiye share a common goal of enhancing stability in this volatile region, and their rapprochement will be a stabilizing factor.

The region faces many challenges that require the cooperation of the influential countries. Egypt and Türkiye have some differences on some issues, such as Libya, Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean. However, they also have a lot of common interests, such as trade, security, and counter-terrorism. They agree that they should not let their differences jeopardize their national security or their regional role. They have adopted a pragmatic approach that seeks to overcome their differences and focus on their shared objectives.

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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