Egyptian president rejects Turkey, Qatar reconciliation bids

There will be “no reconciliation with those who want to destroy Egypt, and those who harm the people of Egypt,” Sisi said.

Monday 12/10/2020
: A 2017 file picture Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivering a speech in Cairo. (Reuters)
: A 2017 file picture Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivering a speech in Cairo. (Reuters)

CAIRO – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi decisively rejected any form of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and its regional sponsors, Turkey and Qatar, during an armed forces educational symposium Sunday. There will be “no reconciliation with those who want to destroy Egypt, and those who harm the people of Egypt,” Sisi said.

Political sources revealed to The Arab Weekly that Cairo had received indirect messages through mediators representing different parties expressing Turkey and Qatar’s desire to resolve contentious issues. Egypt, however, rejected those offers.

The same sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Cairo has hardly any trust in those countries’ leadership, which engage in double discourse, support anti-state groups, provide safe havens for alleged terrorist elements and foster instability in Egypt.

In September, Ankara sent clear signals from senior officials that it was ready to engage in dialogue on political and security issues with Egypt.

Ankara also expressed its desire to resolve current disputes but Cairo ignored the messages and continued to react harshly to Turkish intervention in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, which Egypt sees as a threat to its interests.

Cairo accuses Ankara and Doha of supporting extremist and terrorist organisations, and considers Doha’s intervention in the Gaza Strip as an attempt to undermine Egypt’s role there.

Cairo has also refused to cooperate with Qatar on any regional issues, because this could be understood as a stamp of approval for Doha’s policies.

Qatar’s intervention in Gaza led to a rupture between Egypt and Hamas, which has tried to expand its margin of manoeuvre by involving Doha as another mediator in disputes with Israel or competing Palestinian factions.

Pro-government media outlets in Egypt are launching a fierce campaign against Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, showing pictures of him stained with blood to depict him as a supporter of violence in the region.

These media outlets also accuse Sheikh Tamim of tampering with Egypt’s national security.

Security expert and former assistant to the Egyptian interior minister, Mohamed Noureddine, said Sisi realises that Cairo cannot reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood because of both political concerns and public opinion.

Noureddine told The Arab Weekly that there are those from the army, the police, the media and the judiciary whose sons fell victim to the Muslim Brotherhood and its regional sponsors, and that they would fiercely oppose any form of reconciliation with the group.

Noureddine added that Sisi had learned from the experiences of his predecessors and will be careful not to repeat the mistakes made by former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.

According to Noureddine, the problem with the Muslim Brotherhood and the regimes supporting the group, notably Qatar and Turkey, is that they only want to reconcile on their terms.

The Egyptian state apparatus knows that inciting people to demonstrate, causing confusion and questioning the state are manoeuvres used by Ankara and Doha to pressure and undermine Cairo.

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV channel and similar outlets in Istanbul have long attacked the Egyptian regime, exaggerating social and economic crises in the country to fuel a climate of social unrest and encourage people to hold demonstrations.

Since the end of last September, these media outlets have ramped up their attack on Cairo, telling viewers that the situation in Egypt is getting ready to explode.

In his speech, Sisi said, “The fourth and fifth generation wars are continuing against Egypt to provoke public opinion and question the performance of (the) country’s leadership and the armed forces,” stressing the need to be aware of all plots that aim to undermine state stability.

He added that the challenge is to maintain the firmness and stability of the state along with the awareness of the people, stressing that the essence of the country’s progress is stability.

Observers believe that media attacks and political incitement are aimed at pressuring Cairo to accept a comprehensive reconciliation deal with Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sisi’s recent remarks are the first official, high-level reference to the two countries’ intervention in Cairo. The departure marked a change from Sisi’s usual strategy of ignoring messages from Doha and Ankara.

Sisi’s comments are likely to close the door on recent attempts by senior Qatari and Turkish officials to ameliorate tensions, and possibly create security holes that Ankara could exploit by suggesting there is coordination on Libya to avoid a military confrontation.

The Egyptian president further toughened his stance against the Muslim Brotherhood, after some experts suggested there is a possibility Cairo could turn a new page and engage in dialogue with Islamist leaders in prison to achieve reconciliation.

Sameh Eid, an expert on political Islam, confirmed to The Arab Weekly that young Muslim Brotherhood members had exerted pressure on their leaders to forge an agreement with Cairo to achieve temporary reconciliation that would allow for some detainees to be released.

He explained that young Islamists have recently been unhappy with their leaders’ refusal to take any positive steps towards Cairo in order to secure the release of prisoners.

The current stalemate, according to Eid, is due to the group’s refusal to renounce violence or reevaluate its ideology, the source of major division between younger Islamists and senior Brotherhood leaders.

The Egyptian president’s tone appeared decisive in his latest speech, leaving no room for reconciliation and rejecting all messages from Ankara, specifically regarding potential rapprochement with Cairo.

Sisi’s statements indicated that reconciliation with Turkey will not be achieved before the Muslim Brotherhood is repudiated, or at least before the Turkish regime presents evidence that it no longer supports terrorism.

Eid noted that Sisi has put the ball in the court of those who hope to reconcile, basically saying:  “If you wish for forgiveness, then prepare for harsh conditions from Cairo.”

The Egyptian president often speaks at armed forces educational seminars about national and foreign policy issues.

Experts argue the Egyptian regime is confident it has the upper hand against the schemes of Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

For seven years, since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime in Cairo in July 2013, none of the Islamists’ plots have succeeded in shaking Cairo’s political, security and economic pillars.

Experts say the Egyptian authorities prioritise social cohesion at home, and have responded to all attempts to weaken that country’s stability through rumours and the dissemination of fake news.