Egypt, Turkiye leaders highlight importance of reviving economic cooperation

Egypt, Turkiye leaders highlight importance of reviving economic cooperation
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attends a meeting between the African Union and European Union during the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 10 September 2023
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Egypt, Turkiye leaders highlight importance of reviving economic cooperation

Egypt, Turkiye leaders highlight importance of reviving economic cooperation
  • Analyst claims 2 nations can help boost political stability in Libya

ANKARA: The leaders of Turkiye and Egypt on Sunday met formally for the first time in more than a decade, on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The meeting in the Indian capital New Delhi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi marked an historic milestone in a recent thawing of relations.

In July, the two countries appointed respective ambassadors to Cairo and Ankara, effectively ending years of tensions that had strained diplomatic ties.

During Sunday’s talks, Erdogan and El-Sisi highlighted the importance of rejuvenating economic cooperation, including on energy, while promoting cultural exchanges.

Erdogan pointed out Turkiye’s keen interest in rekindling links in vital sectors such as liquefied natural gas and nuclear energy.

The reconciliation process has been a gradual one, with both countries taking measured steps to pave the way for diplomatic re-engagement.

Over recent years, Turkiye has shown its commitment to improving relations in several ways, including by ceasing the broadcast of Egyptian opposition TV channels, and detaining Egyptian dissidents using social media to support anti-government protests in Egypt.

Also, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Egyptian satellite TV channel, Mekameleen TV, last year relocated its operations from Turkiye.

Dalia Ziada, director of the Cairo-based MEEM Center for Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Studies and a member of Diplomeds — The Council for Mediterranean Diplomacy, told Arab News that the Egyptians were pre-concerned by cooperation on regional problems.

“That was clearly expressed in the official statement by the Egyptian presidency which emphasized the importance of enhancing regional cooperation as a solid strategic approach to maintaining security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” she said.

However, she noted that the two delegations had yet to agree on holding a presidential summit in one of their capital cities.

“That is crucial to engage the public citizens in the reconciliation process in order to ensure its sustainability in the long term,” Ziada added.

Dr. Pinar Akpinar, assistant professor with the Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences, told Arab News that the Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement could lead to sustainable results in the short term by focusing on economic collaboration, regional cooperation, energy partnerships, security ties, and civil society engagement.

“Engaging the public and shifting away from red lines such as political ideologies toward shared interests are also critical components for success,” she said.

Akpinar pointed out that energy projects could be a focal point for collaboration between the two countries, particularly in renewable energy initiatives such as solar and wind farms.

“There is potential for private-sector investments in energy infrastructure and the creation of a geo-economic triangle involving Egypt, Israel, and Turkiye to attract European investments in the energy sector,” she added.

Akpinar said the rapprochement had the potential to bolster regional dynamics by enhancing energy security, stabilizing markets, and promoting economic interdependence.

“Collaborative efforts in renewable energy projects and infrastructure development can provide both countries with diversified energy sources and greater resilience against supply disruptions, positively impacting neighboring nations as well.

“Furthermore, their joint involvement in regional energy initiatives can position Egypt and Turkiye as influential actors in regional negotiations and conflicts, contributing to diplomatic stability and conflict mitigation while addressing shared energy needs in the region.

“They could also leverage their relations with Gulf countries in this regard,” she added.

Also a member of Diplomeds, Akpinar recently co-authored a policy paper with Ziada titled, “Fostering Egypt Turkiye Rapprochement through Sustainable Cooperation: A Strategic Policy Approach.”

In it they noted that improved Egyptian Turkish relations could enable the countries, “to build on their successful economic cooperation, revive military collaboration, and focus on future projects that support bilateral and regional well-being.”

Ziada said cooperation in the trade of LNG that had been going on since December 2021, could be magnified by including other regional players such as Israel.

“Especially in light of the ongoing successful cooperation between Egypt and Israel, since 2015, on extracting and liquifying the gas in their respective basins in the southern Mediterranean, this can deepen their cooperation,” she added.

Israeli-based news television channel i24NEWS recently reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had instructed an inter-ministerial team to examine alternatives to Israel’s current gas exports, including a way to direct it to Turkiye and consequently to southern European nations to cut reliance on the Russian pipeline.

The proposed pipeline, “aims to link the key Turkish-European pipeline with the abundant gas reserves in Israel and neighboring areas such as Egypt and the UAE”, i24NEWS reported.

Ziada said Egypt could adopt a mechanism that allowed it to cooperate with Turkiye on the gas issue, without necessarily cutting ties with Greece and Cyprus or harming its previous agreements with them. “It is not an either/or equation. Egypt can do both,” she added.

Ziada warned about the need for stabilizing Libya to ensure stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Libya, she said, was “a bleeding wound in this economically critical region. Egypt and Turkiye can perfectly cooperate to ensure political stability in Libya due to their strong connections with and influence on the conflicting parties inside the country.”

The rapprochement process has also been supported by recent civil initiatives such as Diplomeds, a non-profit policy group. Prominent experts from the Mediterranean region have been working since 2022 to advance Egypt Turkiye rapprochement and improve ties between Mediterranean countries by advancing peace and promoting regional cooperation.

In a joint statement, Dr. Nimrod Goren, co-founder of Diplomeds and senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, and Camille Limon, Diplomeds coordinator, told Arab News: “We are working on this issue out of a conviction that progress in ties is feasible and beneficial for the two countries and their peoples, but also for their neighborhood at large.

“Last year, as prospects for Egypt-Turkiye rapprochement emerged, Diplomeds assembled a multi-national policy support group, consisting of several Egyptian, Turkish, and other Mediterranean retired ambassadors, scholars, and policy analysts.

“The group worked collaboratively to assess changes in ties and rapprochement efforts, to draw recommendations for improving bilateral relations, and to identify new regional opportunities that may emerge once Egypt and Turkiye are back on good terms.”

Hesham Youssef, senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace, Diplomeds’ co-founder and part of its policy support group on the topic, noted that Egyptian-Turkish relations were important for stability in the region.

He said: “Stability in the region can be advanced if cooperation between Egypt, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, and Iran can be achieved, and this stability can be dramatically enhanced to achieve prosperity with the end of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and strong partnership with other countries in the East Mediterranean and the Middle East.”


Five killed in Syria’s Homs after being targeted by ‘terrorist group’ -state media

Five killed in Syria’s Homs after being targeted by ‘terrorist group’ -state media
Updated 58 min 17 sec ago
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Five killed in Syria’s Homs after being targeted by ‘terrorist group’ -state media

Five killed in Syria’s Homs after being targeted by ‘terrorist group’ -state media
  • The victims had been gathering truffles when they were attacked

CAIRO: Five civilians were killed in Syria’s Homs countryside after being targeted by a “terrorist group,” the Syrian state news agency SANA said on Friday, citing a police source.
The victims had been gathering truffles when they were attacked, SANA reported.


Scores killed overnight in Gaza amid negotiations in Paris for truce

Scores killed overnight in Gaza amid negotiations in Paris for truce
Updated 24 February 2024
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Scores killed overnight in Gaza amid negotiations in Paris for truce

Scores killed overnight in Gaza amid negotiations in Paris for truce
  • UN aid body for Palestinians, UNWRA, says Gazans are ‘in extreme peril while the world watches on’
  • The Paris talks come after plan for post-war Gaza by Israeli prime minister drew criticism from the US

Gaza Strip: More than 100 people were reported killed early Saturday in overnight strikes across Gaza, as Israel’s spy chief was in Paris for talks seeking to “unblock” progress toward a truce and the return of hostages held by Palestinian militants.
The Paris negotiations come after a plan for a post-war Gaza unveiled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism from key ally the United States and was rejected by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Friday.
They also come as fears for civilians in the territory are deepening, with the UN warning of the growing risk of famine and its main aid body for Palestinians, UNWRA, saying early Saturday that Gazans were “in extreme peril while the world watches on.”
AFP footage showed distraught Gazans queuing for food in the territory’s devastated north on Friday and staging a protest decrying their living conditions.
“Look, we are fighting each other over rice,” said Jabalia resident Ahmad Atef Safi. “Where are we supposed to go?“
“We have no water, no flour and we are very tired because of hunger. Our backs and eyes hurt because of fire and smoke,” fellow Jabalia resident Oum Wajdi Salha told AFP.
“We can’t stand on our feet because of hunger and lack of food.”
In a Friday night statement on social media platform X, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said: “Without adequate food and water supplies, as well as health and nutrition services, the elevated risk of famine in #Gaza is projected to increase.”
The war started after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,514 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza’s health ministry on Friday.
An Israeli air strike Friday destroyed the Gaza home of well-known Palestinian comedian Mahmoud Zuaiter, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more, the health ministry said.
The ministry announced early Saturday that at least 103 more people were killed in strikes overnight, with many others believed to be missing under rubble.
Netanyahu on Thursday night presented his war cabinet with a plan for the post-war Gaza Strip that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
The plan stipulates that, even after the war, the Israeli army would have “indefinite freedom” to operate throughout Gaza to prevent any resurgence of terror activity, according to the proposals.
It also states that Israel will move ahead with a plan, already under way, to establish a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan drew criticism from the United States, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying Friday that Washington had been “consistently clear with our Israeli counterparts” about what was needed in post-war Gaza.
“The Palestinian people should have a voice and a vote... through a revitalized Palestinian Authority,” he said, adding the United States also did not “believe in a reduction of the size of Gaza.”
Asked about the plan during a visit to Argentina, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would “reserve judgment” until seeing all the details, but that Washington was against any “reoccupation” of Gaza after the war.
Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan dismissed Netanyahu’s plan as unworkable.
“When it comes to the day after in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu is presenting ideas which he knows fully well will never succeed,” Hamdan told reporters in Beirut.
Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation led by David Barnea, head of the Mossad intelligence agency, was in Paris on Saturday for a fresh push toward a deal to return the remaining hostages.
Barnea will be joined by his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, Israeli media reported.
The United States, Egypt and Qatar have all been deeply involved in past negotiations aimed at securing a truce and prisoner-hostage exchanges.
Pressure has been mounting on Netanyahu’s government to negotiate a ceasefire and secure the hostages’ release after more than four months of war, with a group representing the captives’ families planning what it billed as a “huge rally” to coincide with the Paris talks on Saturday night to demand swifter action.
The United States, Egypt and Qatar have all been deeply involved in past negotiations aimed at securing a truce and prisoner-hostage exchanges.
White House envoy Brett McGurk held talks this week with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, after speaking to other mediators in Cairo who had met Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.
A Hamas source said the new plan proposes a six-week pause in the conflict and the release of between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages being held by Hamas.
Barnea and his US counterpart from the CIA helped broker a week-long truce in November that saw the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
US National Security Council spokesman Kirby had told journalists earlier that so far the discussions were “going well,” while Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz spoke of “the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress.”


Strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Israel, Hamas seek ceasefire deal

Strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Israel, Hamas seek ceasefire deal
Updated 24 February 2024
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Strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Israel, Hamas seek ceasefire deal

Strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Israel, Hamas seek ceasefire deal
  • The talks also come alongside deepening fears for Gaza’s civilians desperate for food
  • “We didn’t die from air strikes but we are dying from hunger,” said a sign held by one child

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed in the latest Israeli strikes, the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said Saturday, after Israel’s spy chief joined talks in Paris seeking to unblock negotiations on a truce.
The talks come after a plan for a post-war Gaza unveiled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism from key ally the United States, and was rejected by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The talks also come alongside deepening fears for Gaza’s civilians desperate for food. The United Nations’ main aid body for Palestinians, UNRWA, said Gazans were “in extreme peril while the world watches.”
Hamas said on Saturday that Israeli forces had launched more than 70 strikes on civilian homes in Gazan cities including Deir Al-Balah, Khan Yunis and Rafah over the previous 24 hours. The health ministry said at least 92 people were killed.
Israel’s military said it was “intensifying the operations” in western Khan Yunis using tanks, close-range fire and aircraft.
“The soldiers raided the residence of a senior military intelligence operative” in the area and destroyed a tunnel shaft, a military statement said.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since 2007, said fighting was raging in the northern Gaza district of Zeitun.
In nearby Jabalia refugee camp, tempers are rising and on Friday dozens of people held an impromptu protest.
“We didn’t die from air strikes but we are dying from hunger,” said a sign held by one child.
In the camp, bedraggled children waited expectantly, holding plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food is available. Residents have taken to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
Gaza’s health ministry said a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition.”
“The risk of famine is projected to increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza,” as well as access to water, health and other services, the charity Save the Children said.
Israel has defended its efforts to deliver aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza since the start of the war.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in a report on Friday that in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, people are reportedly stopping aid trucks to take food, a measure of their desperation.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest tally released on Saturday by Gaza’s health ministry.
With war still raging after more than four months, Netanyahu on Thursday unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that sees civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
The plan says that, even after the conflict, Israel’s army would have “indefinite freedom” to operate throughout Gaza to prevent any resurgence of terror activity, according to the proposals.
It also says Israel will move ahead with a plan, already underway, to establish a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
A senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said Netanyahu “is presenting ideas which he knows fully well will never succeed.”
The plan also drew criticism from the United States.
“The Palestinian people should have a voice and a vote... through a revitalized Palestinian Authority,” which currently has partial administrative control in the West Bank, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
He added that the United States did not “believe in a reduction of the size of Gaza.”
An Israeli delegation led by Mossad intelligence agency chief David Barnea traveled to Paris for a fresh push toward a deal to return the remaining hostages.
The United States, Egypt and Qatar have all been deeply involved in past negotiations aimed at securing a truce and prisoner-hostage exchanges.
Pressure has mounted on Netanyahu’s government to negotiate a ceasefire and secure the release of the hostages. A group representing their families planned what it billed as a “huge rally” to demand swifter action, coinciding with the Paris talks on Saturday night.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan Yablonka was captured on October 7, said at a traditional Shabbat dinner for hostage families in Tel Aviv.
White House envoy Brett McGurk held talks this week with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, after speaking to other mediators in Cairo who had met Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.
A Hamas source said the new plan proposes a six-week pause in the conflict and the release of between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages being held by Hamas.
Barnea and his US counterpart from the CIA helped broker a week-long truce in November that saw the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The war has led to repeated attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen who say they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
Rubymar, a British-registered cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after one such attack, is taking on water and has left a huge oil slick.


US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles

US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles
Updated 24 February 2024
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US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles

US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles
  • Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting shipping for months and their attacks have persisted despite repeated American and British strikes

Washington: American forces shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea Friday and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles positioned on land, the US military said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting shipping for months and their attacks have persisted despite repeated American and British strikes aimed at degrading the rebels’ ability to threaten a vital global trade route.
Early on Friday, US forces “shot down three Houthi one-way attack (drones) near several commercial ships operating in the Red Sea. There was no damage to any ships,” the Central Command (CENTCOM) said on social media.
In a statement later in the day, CENTCOM said US forces destroyed “seven Iranian-backed Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch toward the Red Sea.”
It said those strikes , carried out between 12:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Sanaa time, were made in self-defense.
“CENTCOM forces identified these missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region,” it said in a statement.
The day prior, American forces struck four Houthi drones as well as two anti-ship cruise missiles, CENTCOM said, adding that the weapons “were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea.”
The Houthis began attacking Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.
US and UK forces responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.
Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza — which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 — has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.


US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels
Updated 24 February 2024
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US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels
  • The Belize-flagged Rubymar was damaged Sunday by a missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels
  • It was transporting 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, says Roy Khoury, the CEO of Blue Fleet CEO

WASHINGTON: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels is taking on water and has left a huge oil slick, in an environmental disaster that US Central Command said Friday could get worse.

Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in a Sunday missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury told AFP.
CENTCOM said the ship is anchored but slowly taking on water and has left an 18 mile oil slick.
“The M/V Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, which could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster,” it said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The ship’s operator said Thursday the ship could be towed to Djibouti this week.
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury had said there was “no risk for now, but always a possibility.”
The attack on the Rubymar represents the most significant damage yet to be inflicted on a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.