What should Cairo do about Turkey’s mixed messages?

What should Cairo do about Turkey’s mixed messages?

He heard the first day of bayram that there would not be any normalization with the el-Sisi administration in Egypt. He heard it from the top of the top position in Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The second day of the bayram he heard that “inshallah” there will be normalization with Egypt and that a delegation will be sent to Egypt after bayram. 

The news was given by Şaban Dişli, deputy head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Prior to bayram, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had talked about some preparations for normalization. 

What should an official in Egypt make of this?

The last word belongs to Erdoğan, so priority should be given to Erdoğan.

However, neither the prime minister nor a top official from the AKP can make such remarks in a willy-nilly fashion. Wouldn’t he say, “Something is possibly moving; change is looming on our Egypt policy?” 

On the one hand, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime will not be recognized and on the other hand, relations with Egypt will start at the ministerial level. The prime minister says, “We are ready for that,” adding that they have no reservations.

But wouldn’t he think about how on earth these two things will be reconciled?

And most probably the man in Cairo started believing that it was now his turn after Russia and Israel.

Their spokesperson had come up with some preconditions; saying normalization steps would be welcomed but not before the el-Sisi administration is recognized by Ankara.

But Erdoğan blew that expectation away. “The framework of steps undertaken with Russia and Israel is different than the framework with Egypt,” he said.

What should the official in Cairo make of Erdoğan’s statement that “the problem with Egypt is one with the administration; the problem is especially with the leader?” That somehow he will mend fences with Egypt without reconciling with el-Sisi?

A delegation from Ankara will go to Egypt, but it will not have official contacts with the administration or el-Sisi. If diplomatic ties with Egypt are not going to be re-established, will the delegation get in touch with the Egyptian people, tradesmen and businessmen?

They say it will be an initiative that will be limited to the revival of economic ties. Yet there have been statements opening the door to reciprocal visits at a ministerial level, and it was thought that Erdoğan had given his consent. 

The correct option is not to restrict relations with Egypt to merely el-Sisi. Just as we did not leave our relations with Israel hostage to the blockade in Gaza. Just as we did not leave our relations with the United States to the mercy of the People’s Defense Units (YPG), we should not sacrifice the fate of our relations with Egypt to opposition to el-Sisi.  

I am not suggesting we should love el-Sisi. I am not saying we should forget Egypt’s toppled leader, Mohamed Morsi, and his friends and let them rot in prison. I am not saying we should forge intimate relations with the generals in Egypt. But why are we losing the chance to have the first say in the initiative? Let’s be preemptive and use it in a way that could benefit Morsi. 

How can you establish a relationship without recognizing the el-Sisi administration?

And in fact, didn’t we recognize it when el-Sisi’s foreign minister came to a summit in Istanbul to transfer the presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)? Didn’t we pass that threshold at that time?

Before our rhetoric gets more confusing, a formula is needed to close the gap of logic in this equation.

Either our policy on Egypt has not yet gained clarity, or we are in the midst of indecision. Or there is some confusion in the coordination of the statements. 

At least it wouldn’t be bad if there was some unity in the rhetoric.