By Dalia Ziada
Meetings between Egyptian and Turkish intelligence officials are, reportedly, being held on a regular basis, with the purpose to negotiate the political differences between Cairo and Ankara. The end of the seven years old rift between the two countries may play a significant role in changing the geopolitics of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean regions. However, the endless contradictions in the stances adopted by Turkey’s political leadership towards Egypt are hindering the process of fixing the rift and normalizing relations between the two countries, that each of which constitutes an economic, political, and military value-added to the other, should they choose to cooperate.
Nevertheless, Turkish President Erdogan’s insistence on hosting and supporting the Islamist group that is targeting the removal of the Egyptian president is a huge obstacle in the way for reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan is a strong supporter to the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is designated a terrorist organization by Egypt and other countries. After the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power in Egypt, in 2013, President Erdogan hosted a large number of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood as political refugees in Turkey. That was supposed to be a normal procedure, given the fact that Turkey already hosts a large number of political refugees from all over the Middle East region. Yet, Erdogan’s regime gave more advantage to the Egyptian refugees, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, by allowing them to operate media stations and convene political events that directly target the removal of the Egyptian president El-Sisi from power, in avenge to his role in removing the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
In mid-February, when the famous Egyptian dissident, Ayman Nour, who lives in Turkey since 2015, launched a new organization, in Istanbul, that acts as a new platform to unite the Egyptian political dissidents, living in the diaspora. “The Union of Egyptian National Forces” is the name of the organization, which sets its main goal as “changing the political regime in Egypt.” It was not surprising to discover, later, that most of the founders of this so-called Egyptian dissident union are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled to Turkey and some European countries, after 2013. This union is the latest on a long list of failed entities, with similar goals and names, that had previously been formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, over the past six years, in an attempt to beautify the group's image in the eyes of the western public opinion, by falsely presenting themselves as political opposition, rather than an Islamist organization that seeks to destroy the national states in the region.
The only difference, this time, is that they put Ayman Nour as the face of their new organization. Ayman Nour is a liberal politician, who played a tremendous role in challenging Mubarak’s regime, before the 2011 revolution. He competed against Mubarak in the presidential elections of 2005 and paid a heavy price for daring to do so, by being put in prison for four years. One can hardly find a non-suspicious explanation to why he is allowing the Muslim Brotherhood, today, to use his name and legacy as a liberal face for their political Islamist agenda.
All this tampering is happening on Turkish soil, at a time when Turkey, according to the statements of its most senior officials, seeks to improve relations with Egypt. In December, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs stated openly, in a televised interview, that his country is keen to fix relations with Egypt and that there is no actual problem that should keep the two countries separated. Yet, it seems that the Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, cannot understand that their continued support to the Muslim Brotherhood is a big issue for the Egyptian people, not only the Egyptian state, or the Egyptian president.
Many Egyptians, today, see Turkey as a hostile state because of Erdogan’s continued support to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to a public survey, conducted by the Liberal Democracy Institute, in 2017, more than 80% of Egyptians said that they consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, and refused the proposal of state reconciliation with the group, under any conditions.
In short, the Egyptians do not have a direct disagreement with the Turks. On the contrary, there are many cultural and historical commonalities, and several mutual economic and political interests and geographical convergence, which should make Egypt and Turkey partners not opposites. The Egyptians’ main dispute with Turkey revolves around president Erdogan’s insistence on continuing to support the Muslim Brotherhood activities against the Egyptian state. If Turkey really wants to establish stable and fruitful relations with Egypt, which is what Egypt also wants, then Turkey must first end support to the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a condition that neither the Egyptian state nor the Egyptian people may give up on.
This article was prepared by Dalia Ziada in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of SEE or its members.