Turkey-Egypt relations have been the most significant topic with regards to our foreign relations for about two weeks. There is a broad consensus over how Turkey’s diplomatic standoff with Egypt unfolded. Yet the future of Turkey-Egypt relations is subject to much speculation. Some say that the tensions between Ankara and Cairo go well beyond Egypt and reflect a broader tension between Turkey and the Arab world.
Ahmed Elkhateeb, the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian paper Al Watan, listed 10 conditions that Cairo has stipulated for the normalization of its relations with Ankara. I would refer to it as an “Arab Manifesto.” While the conditions are ostensibly linked to Egypt, Ahmed Elkhateeb has in fact summed up demands that Arab states have individually put forward. Thus, this “Manifesto” serves as an accurate reflection as to how certain Arab states regard Turkey.
In the immediate aftermath of the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the UAE’s Foreign Minister said: “We do not oppose the improvement of Turkey’s relationship with the Arab world but Turkey should turn to the Arab world.” What he meant is that Turkey ought to be attentive to Arab sensitivities and act accordingly.
The first condition on Ahmed Elkhateeb’s list has to do with maritime law. He stated that a demarcation line between Turkey and Egypt could not be drawn without complying with international maritime law. Elkhateeb also underlined that Ankara had not signed the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and that signing this agreement was a precondition.
The second condition was the following: There would be no political communication until Cairo is sure about the compliance of the Turkish side to general observance.” Moreover, it states that “The communication would remain solely at the security level since political communication does not occur with states that sponsor terrorism, according to Egypt.” This condition thus insinuates that Turkey meddles in Egypt’s domestic affairs. The “terrorist organisation” they are referring to is obviously the Muslim Brotherhood.
Elkhateeb further elaborates on this issue through a third condition: There would be no Egyptian-Turkish agreement in the East Mediterranean except after a Turkish comprehensive agreement with the European allies, and specifically with the Greek and (Greek) Cypriot sides.” This condition naturally provokes Turkey’s anger. Unlike Egypt, Turkey has had strong ties with Europe for decades, but in the prevailing conjuncture, Egypt has been defending the position of Turkey’s erstwhile European allies against it. This is something Ankara should seriously ponder upon.
The fourth condition on the list emphasizes the sensitivities of Saudi Arabia and the UAE: “Turkey’s military, political and security departure of Libya, its complete abandonment of the Libyan file and pledge to withdraw the mercenaries it brought to the Libyan territories.” Egypt has opposed all of Turkey’s deals with Libya from the very beginning. The Arab world saw Turkey’s forays into Libya as a foray into the Arab world as a whole. Hence Cairo’s objective is to overturn the deals Turkey has brokered with the Fayez al-Sarraj government in Libya and curb Turkey’s influence.
The fifth condition deals with the Arab world. It states: “Turkey should prepare a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops from northern Syria and sign a binding agreement with the Iraqi government pledging never to intervene in Iraqi territories.” It appears like the demands of the Syrian and Iraqi governments are stated here.
The sixth condition is likely to irk Turkey: “The negotiations will have to include Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Turkey will have to apologize for the offences committed in recent years against the Gulf states. Furthermore, Cairo will not come to any agreement with Turkey unless Ankara pledges not to ever intervene in the domestic affairs of the Arab states and to observe the boundaries of Arab national security.”
Then the list contains the demands pertaining to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is described as the “common enemy” of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Egypt asks Turkey to shut down the Muslim Brotherhood’s TV channels and hand over its members to Interpol. Last but not least, the list states that Turkey will not be included in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum unless it signs agreements with certain countries including the Republic of Cyprus.
While Ahmed Elkhateeb’s article isn’t an official document, we are familiar with the culture of journalists that are close to the government. So rather than mere claims made by a journalist, one can interpret this article as an Arab manifesto against Turkey.