Sisi-Mitsotakis meeting reflects focus on Turkey’s regional policies
CAIRO – The joint press conference between Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Monday, highlighted the continuing concern over the Turkish role in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the two leaders’ statements only hinted at what they considered a major threat to the two countries for strategic and historical reasons.
The Egyptian president avoided direct reference to Turkey during the joint press conference held in Cairo, which indicates that Cairo, although it sees in Ankara a great regional rival, is not about to confront it and is waiting for broader political and regional changes that could affect the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sisi stressed his commitment to sovereignty over territorial waters and his keenness to strengthen relations with Greece and develop existing cooperation within the framework of the tripartite mechanism with Cyprus, in order to achieve common interests and goals in the eastern Mediterranean region.
Mitsotakis stressed that his country is interested in strengthening cooperation with Cairo and also developing the tripartite mechanism between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, which, he said had been “successful and effective for coordination and regular institutional cooperation.”
He said he agreed with Egypt on the need to establish peace in Libya and the withdrawal of foreign forces its territory.
Analysts say Turkey usually responds to regional statements that are critical of its role with indifference on the one hand and with continued pursuit of its plans, on the other hand, regardless of any warnings.
They point out that the statements by regional officials, especially those coming from Egypt, over the Turkish role have remained purely rhetorical as they did not pressure Ankara into retreating from its increasing encroachment in the eastern Mediterranean and keeping away from disputed areas, nor did they seek to force it to withdraw its forces and the mercenaries it brought to Libya.
By contrast, Ankara strengthened its influence in Cyprus. The French, Egyptians and Greeks lowered the tone of their statements to the point that they gave the appearance that their words were merely meant as formal expressions.
The Turks are now imposing their presence in Libya as a fait accompli and senior officials are conducting visits to Tripoli without informing any local or international parties, as if the Libyan capital was a Turkish province.
The same analysts believe that the abundance of statements and intensity of diplomatic moves are no substitute for practical results on the ground especially when they do not oblige the opposition to reconsider its policies.
They point out that Egypt, which seeks to appear as a regional alternative to Turkey, exaggerates its political weight, especially since it found itself alone trying to curtail Turkey’s influence.
They warn that Egypt could make the mistake of inflating the extent of its success in Gaza, which, by any standard, was due to exceptional circumstances.
They see that what happened in Gaza as being the result of combined regional and international conditions that made Egypt the only link between conflicting agendas and opposing powers that agreed on the need for de-escalation in Gaza and an attempt to draw Hamas toward a political settlement.
Sisi and Mitsotakis, focused on the latest developments in Libya. It was agreed to support the current political track, leading to the holding of elections on time before the end of this year and on the importance of disbanding the militias and the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libyan soil.
This concentration on the Libyan crisis suggested that Turkey will not succeed in imposing a fait accompli on the regional powers and that it will face no choice but to act in accordance with international demands since the second Berlin conference on Libya, set to start Wednesday, may involve collective pressure on Turkey to force it to modify its behaviour.
Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Al-Orabi told The Arab Weekly that the meeting confirmed that there are no alternatives to Egypt’s relationship with the eastern Mediterranean countries because rapprochement with these countries is of great strategic importance for both Egypt and Turkey and for the region.
Orabi explained that Turkey’s problem lies in the belief that Erdogan’s recent meeting with US President Joe Biden will achieve strategic inroads for Ankara and will allow it a greater margin of manoeuvre and change its regional approaches.
He pointed out that Egypt will not allow developments in the region to affect its relations with eastern Mediterranean countries and there is evidence Cairo will seek in the near future to further boost relations with Greece and Cyprus.