Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will not be able to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt except on the terms of the Arab trio, and the statements he recently made with some of his ministers were one-sided.
Since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013, there have been no political relations in the true sense between Egypt and Turkey, and for the next eight years Ankara worked to attack the Egyptian state.
Despite this, Egypt adopted a flexible approach to Turkey, and invested that intelligently in economic aspects to the extent that the volume of trade exchange between the two countries reached $5 billion in 2018, an unprecedented number. Trade relations between Turkey and the Gulf countries remained continuous and were not suspended, except in October 2020.
In order to put Turkey’s recent moves in their proper context, we have to pay attention to a number of matters, most notably the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Greece to carry out joint military maneuvers; the Biden administration’s position on Erdogan’s regime; and Egypt’s holding five joint military exercises on the border with Libya, revealing its seriousness in confronting those who dare cross its red lines in the Libyan territories, and that it will inflict heavy losses on Turkey.
In 2019, Egypt and a number of other states established the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, which included all the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean except Turkey and Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Libya, with Libya expected to join under its new government.
If Ankara justifies what it is doing in its national interests, as it says, then the national interest of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo calls for Turkey to provide pledges and guarantees.
Dr. Bader bin Saud
In addition, the Turkish lira lost 80 percent of its value during the coronavirus pandemic, 30 percent of the country’s workforce lost their jobs, and Erdogan’s popularity declined markedly.
A meeting was held between NATO and the EU last March to discuss a unified position against Erdogan’s policies. Egypt will not accept normalization with his regime unless he ends the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey, hands over nearly 400 wanted persons, and stops attacking countries in the region.
The US State Department blessed the idea in principle, and indicated Turkey’s contribution to stopping tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the US did not talk about the international sanctions imposed on the Erdogan regime. There is a case against the Turkish state-owned Halkbank as a result of its involvement in corruption and money laundering cases involving tens of billions of dollars. All this to help Iran circumvent US sanctions.
If Ankara justifies what it is doing in its national interests, as it says, then the national interest of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo calls for Turkey to provide pledges and guarantees. On top of these pledges and guarantees must be a commitment by the Erdogan regime to respect its neighbors and not interfere in their affairs.
• Dr. Bader bin Saud is a weekly columnist in both Al Riyadh and Okaz newspapers.