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Sunday, 14 March 2021

He said, she said?

Turkey claims it has restarted diplomatic relations with Egypt and is trying to set up a meeting in Cairo to look into economic, political, and diplomatic cooperation that could potentially lead to warmer relations as Ankara looks to end a long-running dispute. “We have contacts both at the level of intelligence and foreign ministries with Egypt. Diplomatic-level contacts have started,” Turkey’s Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as saying on Friday, according to AFP. Those contacts are “not at the highest level, but right below the highest level,” and the hope is to rebuild strong ties between both countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Not so fast, says Cairo: The statements by Turkish officials can’t be taken to mean both countries have resumed “diplomatic communication,” state news agency MENA cited an official Egyptian source as saying. Egypt expects any country with which it has normal relations to abide by international law and stop meddling in the internal affairs of others in the region, the official said.

Background: Turkey has recently been signaling its willingness to fix relations with Egypt, and with our regional allies Saudi and the UAE, suggesting earlier this month that it could sign an maritime agreement with Egypt demarcating EastMed borders if relations improve. With growing EastMed disputes and years-long tensions that followed the ousting of Turkey-backed former Ikhwan President Mohamed Morsi, it will be hard to “achieve the desired stability,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a speech to the Arab League earlier this month. Relations grew more tense last year, when Ankara refused to recognise an economic zone agreed between Egypt and Greece, and pressed ahead with its own gas surveys and naval exercises in disputed waters.

The story is getting attention from the foreign press: Bloomberg | Associated Press | Voice of America.

OTHER DIPLOMACY NEWS-

Egypt and Sudan are urging Ethiopia to approve a plan to involve the UN, US, and EU in negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), both countries said in a joint statement following Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok’s visit to Cairo last week. The plan involves bringing the three powers on board with the African Union (AU), which is currently mediating the talks, to help reach an agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam. Ethiopia earlier this month rejected attempts to bring more foreign mediators to the table, appearing to be buying time as it concludes the second round of filling the dam, while at the same time dismissing claims that it’s trying to undermine the role of the AU.

Speaking of Ethiopia, the US has decided against resuming security aid to the country after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described acts by the government in the western region of Tigray as ethnic cleansing, Reuters reported. Aid payments related to health and food security resumed, but those for most security programs and several other programs will remain paused, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The US, under former President Donald Trump, had originally suspended aid to Ethiopia in September 2020 after it unilaterally began filling the dam without reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan, but the Biden administration later decided to “de-link” aid payments to GERD.

Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan have reiterated calls for a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, and called against “unilateral” actions such as Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem in a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris on Thursday, they said in a joint statement. The four countries have been spearheading momentum to resume the peace process, and have held three meetings since February 2020, the latest of which was in Cairo last January. Yesterday’s statement made no mention of when the upcoming sit-down is scheduled.

Libya’s interim government could get policy assistance from Egypt to help restore political stability and build development projects, as per a proposal from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during a phone call yesterday with interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, according to an Itthaidya statement.

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