Developing Turkey-Egypt relations will be decisive in the Eastern Mediterranean
Date Added: 14 June 2021, 08:44

Near East Institute Evaluated Turkey-Egypt relations in terms of normalization: “The new developing process will also affect the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Director of the Near East Institute Assist. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çıraklı and Deputy Director Dr. Erdi Şafak evaluated the diplomatic rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt in recent weeks and the talks held in Cairo. Ankara harshly criticized the administration and practices of Abdülfettah Sisi, who came to power with a coup in 2013 and frequently faced Egypt during regional tensions and crises. The resumption of direct talks at this level with Egypt, where the level of relations has been lowered since then, is of critical importance for both bilateral relations and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey announced that the Turkey-Egypt consultations were carried out “with sincere and comprehensive content”. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “Negotiations will continue (with Egypt) on the steps that can be taken to normalize relations in the coming period.” In a written statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the exploratory meetings held in Cairo by the delegations of Turkey and Egypt were held in a sincere atmosphere and comprehensive content, regional issues were discussed, especially the situation in Libya, Syria and Iraq, as well as bilateral issues, and peace and security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean were also discussed. The need for provision was noted.

Assist. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çıraklı: “Both sides are likely to take concrete steps. Political will shall be decisive.”
Near East University Near East Institute Director Assist. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çıraklı regarding the meeting said, “Bilateral relations were deteriorated with the military coup that led to the overthrow of Morsi in July 2013. After that period, there were tensions between the two countries in the political arena as well as in the economic relations, especially mutual trade. The normalization efforts that started with the steps taken in Turkey and the political will of Turkey in this direction has turned into official will with the visit of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Committee to Cairo in the past weeks.

Stating that the unofficial normalization efforts started last March, Assist. Prof. Dr. Çıraklı said, “Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu stated that there were contacts between Egypt and Turkey both at the intelligence level and at the level of ministries, and that some contacts had begun at the diplomatic level. He also said that, depending on the course of their contacts with Egypt, they could negotiate on the Eastern Mediterranean maritime jurisdiction areas and sign an agreement accordingly in the future. Again, a short while ago, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu held a phone call with the Egyptian Foreign Minister to congratulate the month of Ramadan. All these were considered as a clear indication of Turkey’s efforts to normalize bilateral relations.
Commenting on the challenges and opportunities awaiting the relations between Egypt and Turkey, Assist. Prof. Dr. Çıraklı stated that since 2013, when Sisi took over the administration, he has drawn a strategic path that contradicted Turkey in terms of both his attitude towards democracy and the regional alliances he has made in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, he said that there has been a noticeable softening in Turkey-Egypt relations recently and that the steps towards normalization are related to the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

Assist. Prof. Dr. Çıraklı said, “The softening in bilateral relations has not been a sudden process. In other words, it is not a coincidence that the process of normalization developed in the context of changing balances with the emergence of common economic and political interests of Egypt and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this sense, the importance of the Turkey-Libya agreement for Egypt began to be emphasized again. At the same time, we can say that the fact that Cairo needs Turkey in its effort to become a regional energy center is beginning to be accepted more clearly.”

Describing it as likely that both sides will take concrete steps in terms of their common interests in the future, Assist. Prof. Dr. Çıraklı stated that there are also existing difficulties and they should not be ignored. Assist. Prof. Dr. Çıraklı said, “The general opinion in the diplomatic backstage is that it will take time for the Sisi regime to take concrete steps towards the normalization of relations between Turkey and Egypt. There are many strategic facts that will encourage the advancement of bilateral relations. However, normalization does not only depend on the mutual goodwill of the two countries. The support of other actors in the region is also an important factor. It should be noted that Egypt’s alliance, especially with Greece and Southern Cyprus, may pose an important obstacle in the normalization process of Turkey-Egypt relations. Political will shall be decisive at this point.”

Assist. Prof. Dr. Erdi Şafak: “A possible maritime jurisdiction agreement will significantly change the regional balances in the context of international law”
Near East University Near East Institute Deputy Director Assist. Prof. Dr. Erdi Şafak, on the other hand, stated that a possible agreement to be reached by Turkey and Egypt, the two countries with the longest coastlines in the Eastern Mediterranean, on the determination of maritime jurisdiction areas in terms of international law, is extremely important for the two countries. Assist. Prof. Dr. Şafak said, “Turkey has the right to a continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the region has not yet declared an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Here, Turkey’s attitude is to determine the exclusive economic zone areas with all riparian countries in the Eastern Mediterranean within the framework of the principle of common, equitable and proportionality. In this context, a possible maritime authorization agreement that Turkey will sign with Egypt will also have important consequences for other states bordering the region.”

On the other hand, stating that Egypt’s maritime policy towards the Eastern Mediterranean is quite different than that of Turkey’s, Assist. Prof. Dr. Şafak said, “Egypt has a territorial waters application of 12 nautical miles in the Eastern Mediterranean since 1958. However, there is also a regulation stipulating that the region will use its continental shelf rights up to 200 nautical miles or exploitable depth. At the same time, Egypt signed exclusive economic zone agreements with the Greek Cypriot Administration and Israel. Being a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Egypt’s agreement with Turkey is also extremely important for its own interests. Because an agreement with Turkey, which has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, will strengthen Egypt’s position regarding maritime jurisdiction areas in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Drawing attention to the importance Egypt attaches to Turkey in order to strengthen its position in the Eastern Mediterranean, Assist. Prof. Dr. Şafak said, “The maritime jurisdiction areas agreement signed with Greece is a clear example of this. Egypt paid attention to Turkey’s continental shelf when signing a Maritime Authorization Agreement with Greece, which had problems with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the agreement was determined within this framework. Thus, Egypt, while respecting Turkey’s maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean region, prevented a possible crisis in the future. As a result, a possible agreement determining the mutual maritime powers of Turkey and Egypt will not only determine the maritime powers of the two countries within the framework of international law, but will also prevent a possible crisis or conflict in the future.