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Will Qatar's new links with Egypt change Turkey's position?

There has been a lot of speculation about the possible restoration of normal relations between Egypt and Qatar and the impact that this would have on the regime in Cairo, and what Turkey's position would be. Will the government in Ankara also be pushed towards a rapprochement with Egypt in the coming days?

It must be said that the situation for Qatar-Egypt is different to that if Turkey and Egypt, although there are similarities. Regional events, of course, affect all states across the Middle East, even those away from the front line. However, each has its own unique internal challenges and they vary in their ability to meet them. What is the impact of this on the different decision-making mechanisms?

Some people believe that the rapprochement between Qatar and Egypt is a lifeline for the coup regime in Cairo and that shutting down Aljazeera Mubashir news channel will ease the pressure on it. The absence of live, independent rolling news from Egypt will, it is argued, impose a blackout on the human rights violations of the regime. Personally, I believe that the exact opposite will happen.

I am of the opinion that the internal pressure building on the Sisi regime due to the repercussions of the coup will increase, for the simple reason that the pretext upon which the regime relied to explain the reasons for the deterioration in social and economic conditions is no longer there. Qatar and Aljazeera can no longer be cited as the scapegoats, which will test the claims that the problems in Egypt are external and not internal; that outside influence is hindering progress.

Naturally, there are those who will try to exploit this thawing of relations between Qatar and Egypt in order to bestow legitimacy upon the Cairo regime and thus boost its support. This is unlikely to succeed in the long term. There may be those who think that silencing the people by sending them to prison or killing them will lead to stability and allow the regime to claim that it has accomplished its mission. This would be a false claim and, quite possibly, the calm before the storm. The fact of the matter is that the problem in Egypt is structural and cannot be remedied via financial, material or political support without changing the regime itself, both in form and in essence.

The revolutionary explosion did not take place in Egypt because of Qatar or Aljazeera, or even Turkey. On the contrary, relations were good, and Egyptian youth could compare the situation in Turkey with their own. They could see clearly that their own government was not good and had to be changed; that decades of illusory progress had to end; and that Egypt was no longer the influential player that it should be.

As such, there should be no concern regarding the future of the revolution in Egypt; repressing it does not mean finishing it off. It means that it is being prepared for a new, even bigger surge. How long will it be before for the second explosion takes place? This is open to discussion, but the principle that it will happen is certain.

Although a number of theories have been proposed about Turkey's position on Egypt, none are entirely accurate in my view. The first claims that there has been a transformation in the Turkish stance, based on a recent statement by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç. However, transformation usually occurs when there is a radical change in the position and I do not see this happening.

There are two views within the ruling party in Ankara. One says that Turkey has expressed its principled position towards the coup in Egypt and that it is unnecessary to condemn the Egyptian president in every interview, meeting or statement. Moreover, this argument believes that it is useful to maintain "a minimum level of communication" with the Egyptians in order to tackle important regional issues. Arinç is a prominent proponent of this position.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, has his own view moderated by officials in order to maintain the "minimum level of communication". There is, therefore, nothing really new and no actual transformation.

The second theory says that Qatar's move will push Turkey closer to the Egyptians. This is also inaccurate. It is not Qatar which will push Turkey. Attempts to establish communication between the Egyptians and the Turks were already in progress prior to what happened between Qatar and Turkey. They would have come to fruition had it not been for the foolishness of the Egyptian regime, which sought to exploit this in order to promote its own legitimacy. As a result, the endeavour failed.

The fact that such attempts have already been made may imply that they are likely to succeed if repeated in the future, but this very much depends, as far as the Turks are concerned, on the Egyptians. Arinç said that the initiative should come from Cairo while the spokesperson for the foreign ministry in Ankara linked this to a change in the conduct of the Egyptian regime. There are indications that the Turkish government knows what it would ask for in exchange for a minimum level of opening up to the Egyptian regime. This is expected to be in favour of the ousted, legitimate President Mohamed Morsi.

Did the visit to Turkey by the Qatari Emir convince the Turks to open a new chapter with the Gulf States; did the Emir intercede to restore relations between Ankara and Cairo? I think not. The visit had been scheduled for some time and was intended primarily for the signing of strategic agreements between Qatar and Turkey. No one offered to broker anything over the Egyptian issue.

We must also consider that Turkey has never sought to create problems with the Gulf States, which all tend to agree with the government in Ankara on a number of regional issues. Turkey continues to respect the specificities of these states in their Arab surroundings. Evidently, despite the numerous attacks against Turkey launched by the media in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Ankara has not responded; it also maintains a positive stance towards Bahrain although links with the Emirates remain lukewarm.

Translated from Arabi21, 27 December, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleEgyptEurope & RussiaMiddle EastOpinionQatarTurkey
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