Turkey, Egypt and Israel: Changing balances
Istanbul hosted two important meetings on different aspects of the Arab Spring over the weekend. The first one was the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) conference that brought dozens of academics, lawmakers and journalists from various Muslim countries in which the political consequences of the Arab Spring were discussed.
The second one was the initiative of the Turkish Constructors’ Union which hosted prominent European construction companies at a meeting to look into potential investment in the Arab World. Egyptian Ambassador Abderahman Salaheldin was invited to the meeting to brief both Turkish and European constructors about the developments in the region which would offer new opportunities for potential investors.
“This is another face of the Arab Spring,” the ambassador told a group of invitees at his residence Tuesday, adding that the new political climate in the Middle East would certainly open new channels between the region and the rest of the world via Turkey.
Related to this, he underlines the significance of improving the means of cooperation between Ankara and Cairo, the two largest countries in the Middle East. “We have nearly doubled the trade volume, we will hopefully exceed the $5 billion threshold soon,” he said. Noting that the first ro-ro trip began on April 26 going from Mersin to Port Said and would be followed by trips between İskenderun to Alexandria, the ambassador said: “Nearly 1,000 trucks will reach Gulf countries every day. They are not only carrying Turkish goods but also European. And they will not return empty, I believe. This will create a vivid transportation route between the Middle East and Europe.”
The ro-ro shipment was put on the agenda a year ago as part of growing trade ties between Turkey and Egypt. But now it also serves Turkish trucks to bypass Iraqi and Syrian routes to Gulf countries due to ongoing political crises in these two neighboring countries.
The reason for the further development of the relationship between the two countries in a short period of time, according to the ambassador, is the overlapping foreign polices of Turkey and Egypt. “We enjoy a trouble-free relationship,” he said. The respective stances of the two countries on major international issues, including the Arab Spring, Arab-Israeli conflict and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, are similar, he said.
“There is a great potential, and I believe we should turn it into cash,” the ambassador said.
Apart from economic and political relations, the two countries’ armies recently held a joint drill in the eastern Mediterranean, which was seen by many as a way to show off to Israel.
This rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt, described as the Turkish-Egyptian axis by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, has raised eyebrows in the United States and Israel, with concerns that a new political camp has been set up against Israel.
“The Turkish-Egyptian relationship is not against Israel or any other third country,” the ambassador said directly, adding that this relationship between Turkey and Egypt aims to foster peace and stability in the region and not to cause fresh tensions.