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Ankara and Cairo restore ties, signaling challenges for Muslim Brotherhood

Ankara and Cairo restore ties, signaling challenges for Muslim Brotherhood

 


ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on February 14 as part of an important state visit aimed at accelerating the gradual normalization between the two countries started in 2021, with plans for El-Sissi to visit Turkey in April.

The day after the visit, it emerged that Turkish authorities had revoked the citizenship application of Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein Ahmed Hassan, sparking speculation about the reasons for the decision.

Erdogan's visit marked a shift in Turkey's stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood, a crucial factor in thawing tensions between the two nations.

Al-Arabiya reported that Hussein dispossessed himself of his assets in Istanbul and began discussions with Muslim Brotherhood officials about potential courses of action, including a resolution with Turkish authorities or finding another location of residence.

Turkey has taken steps over the past two years to respond to Egyptian demands to crack down on exiled Muslim Brotherhood members and shut down Istanbul-based media outlets that criticize the Egyptian government. As a result, prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures, media figures and academics have begun to leave Turkey, while Egyptian dissidents face social media restrictions imposed by Turkish authorities.

In 2022, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Egyptian satellite television channel Mekameleen TV relocated its operations from Turkey, highlighting changes in regional dynamics. Last year marked a milestone as Egypt and Turkey appointed ambassadors to their respective capitals for the first time in a decade. The February 14 meeting in Cairo, as well as El-Sisis' planned visit to Turkey in April, are a further signal of the desire for diplomatic normalcy.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told Arab News: “Reconciliation with Egypt represents the final and most difficult aspect of Turkey's ongoing efforts to reset its relations with Middle Eastern powers. For almost a decade, Turkey's relations with Middle Eastern countries were strained, mainly due to Ankara's unilateral support for the Muslim Brotherhood starting in 2011. As Turkey gradually restored ties with d For other nations, Egypt remained the last obstacle, as President El-Sisi did. insisted on concrete measures from Turkey to repress exiled members of the Muslim Brotherhood residing on its territory.

Despite recent warm exchanges aimed at repairing ties, experts stress the importance of resolving the Libyan conflict before real cooperation can be achieved, as two countries have often found themselves at odds in their support for rival governments in that country. 'North Africa.

Another aspect, still tacit, of the reconciliation process: the negotiations between Ankara and Cairo also focused on a possible power-sharing agreement for Libya, with the aim of reaching a common understanding of the Libyan conflict. Egypt considers the eastern part of the North African country to be part of its sphere of influence, Cagaptay said.

Ankara has recently started talking to various actors in Libya rather than just the Government of National Accord, one of two rival governments to have emerged in the war-torn country.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held consultations with his Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani on the situation in Libya, on the sidelines of the 16th Munich Security Conference, which coincides with diplomatic efforts between Ankara and Cairo.

Fidan also met with Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah in Tripoli two weeks ago before meeting separately with Mohammed Al-Manfi, head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Vice President of the Council, Abdullah Al-Lafi, and Mohammed Muftah Takala, President of the Libyan High Council of Libya. State.

Turkey's treatment of Muslim Brotherhood elements is part of its process of rapprochement with Egypt, driven by both internal and external motivations, said Pinar Akpinar, assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs and Education Program. Gulf Studies at Qatar University, to Arab News.

The main internal motivation lies in the early elections, which are overshadowed by the severe economic crisis facing Turkey. The resignation of the latest central bank chief, Hafize Gaye Erkan, just nine months after returning to office, has further eroded public and investor confidence in the Turkish economy, she added.

According to Akpinar, as an important regional power and Turkey's largest trading partner in Africa, the rapprochement with Egypt allows Erdogan to present a success story before the elections, both politically and economically.

Erdogan is sending a message that he is strengthening his alliance with the West, as evidenced by Turkey's support for Sweden's NATO membership, its rapprochement with Egypt, and its distancing from anti-Western elements in the region, she said.

It is also worth noting that, for the first time, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is refraining from supporting Erdogan in the elections and has postponed his planned visit to Turkey, scheduled for last week. As such, Erdogan is turning to Turkey's traditional allies and seeking their support for this election and his rapprochement with Sissi as a strong Western ally in recent years is part of this narrative.

Meanwhile, Fidan said a deal was finalized to supply drones to Egypt earlier this month.

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