Egypt testing waters for rapprochement with Turkey

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s phone call with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Turkey’s efforts for cooperation have been part of a slow response by Egypt to a rapprochement process, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday.

Egypt wants to start discussing security issues with Turkey, not political matters, Asharq al-Awsat cited an Egyptian source as saying.

The source told Asharq al-Awsat that Egypt’s conditions were for Turkey to ban criticism of Cairo by Muslim Brotherhood, affiliated channels, and show the political will to focus negotiations on security issues.

Tarek Fahmy, a political scientist from Cairo University, told Asharq al-Awsat that the issues of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum and maritime borders between Cyprus, Greece and Libya, not recognised by Egypt, must be attended to before Egypt would consider rapprochement.

Negotiations over the Muslim Brotherhood aren’t as important as other matters on the table, and both countries know this, Fahmy said.

Egypt has not shut the door completely on negotiations, and wants to have established foundations to continue dealings with Turkey.

Rapprochement between Cairo and Ankara depends on Egypt’s consultations with its Mediterranean allies, such as Greece and Cyprus, al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies researcher Karam Saeed told Asharq al-Awsat. According to the researcher, both countries seek an understanding and normalisation of relations, or the very least, calm for now.

On Friday, Cairo announced the temporary suspension of normalisation talks with Ankara, planned for April, due to doubts over Turkey’s military withdrawal from Libya.

Relations between the two countries have remained fractured since 2013, when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in a coup and launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.