Turkey likes Egypt

After the winter comes the thaw and life blossoms again. At least in nature. In politics, it can take time. Example Egypt and Turkey. Relations have been chilly for seven years, since the end of the Arab Spring. In Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is ruled by an Islamist friend, and in Cairo, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an Islamist eater. Now suddenly Ankara is again looking for proximity to Cairo. The Turkish chief diplomat Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that there will be contact again at the level of the secret services and the foreign ministries for the first time. As if that weren't enough, the head of state intervened. The contacts are "not yet at the very highest level," said Erdoğan. But he also has "no problem" with an approach at the top.

Ankara broke off relations in 2013 after the military coup in Sisi against the elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. In the Arab Spring, the Turkish government sided with the insurgents, welcomed the overthrow of the authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and even supplied the insurgents in Syria with weapons. The love between Ankara and Cairo, where the Muslim Brotherhood ruled in 2012, was particularly strong. Until Sisi staged a coup: Erdoğan, who is an Islamist and likes to show the four-fingered greeting from the Muslim Brotherhood, opened gates and doors for the fled Egyptians. Istanbul became a retreat for the Brotherhood.

The next change of time is taking place in the Arab world

The reasons for Ankara's current U-turn are obvious. Erdoğan's foreign policy, whose toolkit ranges from shirt-sleeved threats against Greeks and Cypriots to military interference in the civil wars in Libya and Syria, is proving to be a dead end. In the dispute over the suspected natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean, Turkey is facing a raw materials alliance made up of Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus and France; the EU is sanctioning the Turkish saber rattling against its members Athens and Nicosia. NATO fears a military clash between the alliance partners Ankara and Athens, Washington warns of escalation and is holding military maneuvers with the Greeks. In short: the gambler Erdoğan may briefly achieve success in the Mediterranean, but he has made enemies.

In the meantime, the next change of time is taking place in the Arab world. The conservative Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), see Iran as the main enemy, ignoring the central Palestinian problem for decades. Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE have established diplomatic relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia is still hesitant, but could follow. All of these states opposed the uprising in the Arab Spring, suppressed it or helped friendly states to do just that. Now they are forming an alliance against Tehran, more or less openly together with Israel.

Ankara, however, supports the Syrian insurgents to this day, protecting them militarily from the Assad regime. In Libya, too, Turkey sided with the Islamists, where it met an alliance of Arab opponents. Egypt, still an Arab supremacy, also forbids any interference by the Turks in its neighboring country: Sisi wants Erdoğan's troops to withdraw.

Because the Arab states are reconciling, Turkey has to look for a different role in the Middle East. It could help that the Gulf states now get along with the once breakaway emirate of Qatar, the only weighty Arab ally of the Turks. Qatar could help Erdoğan play a less confrontational role and save face in the process. But first of all, the relationship with Cairo must be normalized. The Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry only commented: "If Turkey really acts within the framework of Egyptian principles and goals, the framework for a return to normalization would be in place."