“We are looking at the actions, if this talk is not in accordance with the policies then it does not have impact or significance.”Sameh Shoukri, Egypt’s Foreign Minister
Regardless of political differences, Egypt and Turkey should communicate, said Yasin Aktay, advisor to the chairman of the Turkish Justice and Development Party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strongman. Aktay’s controversial statement juxtaposes Turkey’s hostile and arrogant political attitude towards Egypt since the 30 June 2013 Revolution that toppled the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood allied with Erdogan’s regime.
The Ankara regime is based on twisting facts and promoting fallacies. In an interview to a Qatar-funded website, Aktay said Turkey’s presence in Libya is for the sake of reform and peace and is not in any way an occupation. He called on Egypt to adopt the same course, adding those who want to occupy Libya should retreat. Building on the same fallacies, Aktay claimed Turkey is present in the Mediterranean not to oppose or attack, but rather to defend itself and its rights.
Aktay fiercely criticised the decision of the Arab League meeting held on a foreign ministerial level that included what he dubbed are allegations about “Turkish interventions” in Arab countries’ affairs. Aktay’s statements constitute a complete denial of Turkish military presence in a number of Arab countries, as Ankara intervenes politically in other countries’ affairs in an effort to destabilise peace and security in the region.
As part of his false claims, Aktay, expressing surprise at the Arab League decision, said “this is a funny situation, who are the Arabs? Is the UAE, for example, more Arab than Turkey?”
In a blatant interference in regional affairs, Aktay said Turkey has the right to intervene and speak for the Arabs more than several Arab countries can do for several reasons, including that 10 million Arabs reside in Turkey and Syrian refugees seek shelter in Turkey not in Arab countries.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s response was sharply worded against Aktay’s attempts to pass false messages about Egypt. “We are looking at the actions, if this talk is not in accordance with the policies then it does not have impact or significance.”
Turkey’s “military presence in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and the tensions in the East Mediterranean foretell of expansionist policies to destabilise the region. These [actions] don’t lead to dialogue and opening a new chapter [in relations]. It is not statements, rather actions and policies in line with international relations and international legitimacy, that reinforce stability. This is what we are concerned with at this stage,” added Shoukri.
Erdogan’s use of force is starting to isolate Ankara. Turkey can no longer continue its policies of fait accompli in the Eastern Mediterranean after it had threatened Greece and Cyprus and France and the European Union intervened to halt Turkish threats.
In response, Erdogan’s government had to pull back its exploration vessel in the Mediterranean Sea after it sensed the gravity of the situation.
Meanwhile, Erdogan is still arming Tripoli militias that have turned against each other following Turkey’s military intervention. The conditions in western Libya are deteriorating after Turkey’s flagrant intervention.
Egypt, on the other hand, is committed to bring Libyan factions closer, reiterating its only concern is to bring the Libyan people together and protect the state from complete collapse.
There is a world of difference between the Egyptian and Turkish discourses on Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara is trying to make political and economic gains by sowing instability, while Cairo is committed to international legitimacy, international law and good neighbourliness.
Time is of the essence, but time is on the side of rational discourse against arrogance and might.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly