Cairo sees little place for Brotherhood in rapprochement with Ankara

The Egyptian government realises that Turkey, driven by partisan and ideological considerations, may never completely abandon the Brotherhood.
Monday 22/03/2021
A file picture of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Hagia Sophi in Istanbul. (AFP)
A file picture of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Hagia Sophi in Istanbul. (AFP)

CAIRO--The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to mitigate the repercussions on its future of an imminent rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey  by seeking to start a dialogue with the Egyptian authorities, but Egyptian sources confirmed to The Arab Weekly the lack of Egyptian interest in such attempts.

Acting Brotherhood Guide Ibrahim Munir hinted, on Saturday evening, that he “trusts Turkey and accepts its mediation to resolve the group’s protracted crisis with the Egyptian regime.”

Taking to Al-Jazeera Mubasher, Munir ruled out the idea of ​​a deal between Ankara and Cairo, which would include the handover  to Egypt of Brotherhood members living in Turkey.  He  said that developments on the Egyptian-Turkish relationship are part of  political repositioning and will not be at the expense of the Brotherhood.

“If the Egyptian opposition, of which we are part, is offered a dialogue with the regime in a way that eases the conditions of the detainees and improves the situation of the people, we will not refuse it,” he said.

Egyptian security sources denied to The Arab Weekly any intent to join with Turkey or any other country in a process that would lead to reconciliation with the Brotherhood. They point out that Munir was trying “to rule out the possibility that Turkey would sacrifice them or expel them from its soil, and to say that the matter will stop at requiring them to exercise self-control in the media.” .

The same sources added that the idea of ​​handing over or expelling media professionals is not of major relevance to Cairo, and that the discussion is focused on withholding help to convicted terrorist elements whom Egypt can demand  be handed over to Cairo or to the International Interpol.

Egypt knows that extradition could cause pressures on Turkey at home. Thus for now its sees the appeasement steps including the end of hostile programmes in the media as good enough since it takes away the Brotherhood’s main weapon.

Former Assistant Minister of the Interior, Major General Mohamed Negm, said: “The contacts between Egypt and Turkey prompted the Brotherhood to intervene and to seek to benefit from the discussions, in a move that reflected its concern about the fate of the group in the wake of the rapprochement with Doha and then Ankara, and as it sees its (Brotherhood) fortunes declining among Western powers. ”

Negm said he expected new Brotherhood statements indirectly wooing the Egyptian state during the coming period.  But the Brotherhood’s calls will not be accepted at the official and popular levels, as the overall position regarding the group has not changed.

Ibrahim Mounir’s statements are seen in Cairo as reflecting the scope of the crisis facing the Brotherhood, as Egypt  has taken a final decision against dealing with the organisation. Analysts believe it is unlikely there will be any positive response to the signals sent by Brotherhood leaders.

Political sources say Cairo could accept dialogue only in one circumstance, “if the group declared its explicit renunciation of violence, recognised the crimes it committed in Egypt and declared its integration of national ranks, in deeds and not just in words.”

Acting Brotherhood Guide Ibrahim Munir speaking to Al Jazeera Mubasher. (TAW)
Acting Brotherhood Guide Ibrahim Munir speaking to Al Jazeera Mubasher. (TAW)

The sources told The Arab Weekly, “At that time, there will also be strict conditions for dialogue, including an apology to the people.”

Much will also depend on “the extent of the people’s acceptance of this apology, because the state does not need to engage in negotiations with a faction that does not pose a threat to it at home or abroad.”

Mounir Adeeb, an expert on Islamist groups, stressed that the Brotherhood is in a state of political disarray after its clash with the state and the subsequent isolation of the organisation and the countries that have supported it. Adeeb expects that much as Turkey is attempting the resumption of ties with minimal losses, so the Brotherhood will proceed on the same path, as countries see less benefit in engaging the organization.

Adeeb told The Arab Weekly that “Ibrahim Munir’s remarks to Al-Jazeera expressed the organisation’s desire to start a dialogue with the Egyptian government, and to present the issue  as that of an opposition activity abroad, while the Brotherhood is an opposition and an extremist organisation that practices incitement from abroad, and the Egyptian state will not engage in dialogue with extremist groups.”

The Egyptian government realises that Turkey, driven by partisan and ideological considerations, may never completely abandon the Brotherhood. Analysts say the organisation constitutes a card that can still be used by Ankara if rapprochement with Cairo does not achieve its regional goals. But ties to the Brotherhood could be also curtailed, if not sacrificed, if Ankara finds such ties to be an obstacle to establishing better relations with Egypt.

The Egyptian government has continued its moves  to further undermine the group during the past few days, as it expanded the names of Brotherhood figures on the list of terrorists and frozen bank accounts of businessmen linked to the group. These measures occurred at a time when the organisation’s leaders seemed to be optimistic about the arrival of US President Joe Biden.

Cairo intended through its moves to preempt speculation that dialogue with Qatar and Turkey and the arrival of the Biden administration will improve the Brotherhood’s position and pressure the Egyptian government into changing its stance towards the group.

According to analysts, the apparent change in discourse displayed by Ibrahim Munir’s in his statements to Al-Jazeera Mubasher came after Turkey confirmed its intent to maintain a political distance towards his group for now. Munir is seen as trying to promote the notion that the Brotherhood leaders  fully understand the reasons for the new Turkish steps and are willing to adjust.