Erdoğan’s U-turn on Egypt policy interpreted as ‘Isolation, pragmatism and hypocrisy’

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Rumors and timid statements about Turkey’s attempts to repair its broken relations with Egypt ended on Friday when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the two countries had their first diplomatic contacts since 2013.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said later on Friday that Ankara aims to keep growing intelligence, economic and diplomatic ties with Egypt.

“The Egyptian and Turkish states cannot be separated,” he said in a televised speech.

Turkey’s strongman Erdoğan had vehemently opposed Egypt’s strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi since 2013, when the Egyptian general ousted the Ankara-backed Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi through a military coup, which killed at least 817 civilians, including women and children.

Erdoğan stuck to his anger over the “putschist” Sisi and showed his support for Egypt’s first democratically elected president Morsi, who died in prison on June 17, 2019.

Paying tribute to the “martyr,” Erdoğan accused the European Union of hypocrisy over backing his foe Sisi and turning a blind eye to Cairo’s use of the death penalty.

Erdoğan and his ruling AKP officials several times attacked Turkey’s opposition figures who protested the Turkish government’s cutting of ties with Egypt and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

He accused them of supporting a “putschist.”

Erdoğan said he would “never talk to someone like Sisi” during an interview in 2019 and called for the release of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners in Egypt.

“First of all, he should release all those imprisoned with a general amnesty. As long as these people have not been released, we will not be able to talk with Sisi,” he said.

Amnesty International’s January report estimates there are still tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt.

Erdoğan changes his rhetoric after passage of 7 years

Many have changed over the years. Turkey’s Erdoğan has become even more authoritarian, and his ties have deteriorated with the EU and the US.

Many analysts say Ankara is trying to open a new chapter with Egypt after facing growing isolation in the region over a range of issues, including the war in Libya and east Mediterranean maritime agreements.

Others claim pragmatism overrode ideology and that Ankara is convinced now that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has no chance of returning to power in Egypt.

“It was a mistake to support Muslim Brothers. But the [Turkish] government now realizes the Muslim Brothers do not have the slightest chance of coming to power again, so we can’t keep on with this policy,” VOA quoted Ankara-based analyst Hüseyin Bağcı as saying on Tuesday.

“Turkey officially cannot say we will renounce Muslim Brothers’ support. Erdoğan will not say this officially. But probably slowly, he will move from his official position of being anti-Sisi. But Erdoğan will not shake hands with Sisi,” according to Bağcı.

Turkey and Egypt, traditional allies and two key players in the region, have disagreed on several issues over the years.

Cairo last year signed a maritime agreement with Athens that laid claim to some eastern Mediterranean waters covered in a separate pact Turkey struck with Libya around the same time.

Çavuşoğlu said earlier this month that Ankara was prepared to negotiate a new maritime agreement for the eastern Mediterranean with Cairo.

Bloomberg called Turkey and Egypt’s mutual efforts to mend fences “pragmatism.”

Several posts on social media platforms such as Twitter shared Erdoğan’s previous critical statements about Sisi and accused the Turkish president of acting hypocritically.

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