“On the same day the Ottomans entered the war, the British declared martial law in Egypt […] the British authorities remained concerned about Egyptian loyalties. Unwilling to involve Egyptian soldiers in a fight where bonds of religion would almost certainly outweigh respect for the colonial authorities, the British decided to exempt the Egyptian people from the war entirely,” according to the book “The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East” by Eugene Rogan Eugene Rogan.
This is how Eugene Rogan, the famous British professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Oxford explains the strong bonds between Egyptians and Turks. Indeed, no matter what temporary disturbances might arise, the mutual love and respect of these two people has for each other is too strong to be ever broken.
Now, after a long hiatus, well-intentioned steps quietly taken by Turkey and Egypt to mend the previously strained ties of friendship have begun to come to fruition. And, trade and economic relations are picking up speed.
President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchange of Turkey (TOBB) Rifat Hisarciklioglu recently attended the Third Egypt Investment Conference held in Cairo. As the Vice President of EuroChambers, Hisarciklioğlu gave the keynote speech and thanked President of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce Ahmed al-Vekil, for hosting the successful forum. Later, Hisarciklioglu met with a group of Turkish businessmen in Cairo before a meeting with Tareq Qabel, the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry.
Last year, after four years of no contact, the TOBB delegation participated in the Egypt-Turkey Business Forum held in Egypt. Led by Hisarciklioglu, the Turkish delegation, which included representatives of Turkish firms in Egypt, met with their counterparts from 80 Egyptian companies and later paid a visit to Mr. Tareq Qabel, the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, which Hisarciklioglu commented on with the following words: ‘We concluded the first meeting on Ministerial level after the coup’.
The two countries always enjoyed fruitful relations, which became stronger especially after the beginning of the 2000’s. So much so, the steady rise in the trade between the two countries reached the level of five billion USD per year before the relations were hit by the diplomatic crisis. As a result, Turkey’s exports to Egypt fell by 5% in 2015 to 3.1 billion US dollars, and then in 2016, fell by another 12.7 percent to 2.7 billion USD. Nevertheless, Egypt is still the country in Africa that Turkey enjoys the greatest trade volume with. Similarly, Turkish investments in Egypt are worth more than two billion USD.
Today, both sides are determined to go back to – and even exceed – these impressive levels of trade. As of 2016, the countries managed to reach $US 4 billion again in the first seven months of 2017 witnessing deals worth $US 2.4 billion. In addition, Turkish investors create a trading volume of between five and $US 6 billion in the Egyptian domestic market and employ 75,000 people. Also, in terms of volume and employment, Turkish investors are also in the top three in foreign investors in Egypt.
Clearly, trade, economic and social relations between Turkey and Egypt, which were strained to the breaking point after the military coup of 2013, are moving faster than those relating to diplomacy and politics. Recent messages from both sides express a strong desire to normalize relations and they also show that the process of rapprochement will accelerate.
As a matter of fact, the first signs of reconciliation began as early as 2016. After Egyptian Foreign Minister Sami Şükri sincerely remarked on the importance of alliance, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım expressed his thoughts with a similar warmth and on Turkey’s state television TRT, giving an important message about the Turkish-Egyptian relations: “Life goes on. We live in the same region, we need each other… We have geographical links and ties, not to mention our religious and cultural ties… It’d be good for the businessmen of the two countries to visit each other, increase their investment. This may help normalize our relations. We can even start meetings on a ministerial level. This is possible, nothing stands in the way of that. Frankly, we are ready for this, we don’t have any reservations about that.”
After these amiable messages from both sides, a parliamentary delegation from Turkey attended the Parliamentary Assembly – Union for the Mediterranean held in Cairo last September and took reconciliation one step further. Soon after, another Turkish parliamentary delegation attended a workshop of Global Counter-terrorism Forum in Egypt in October that was held to study the relationship between the parliaments and the judiciary in the fight against terrorism.
Egypt and Turkey are two friendly and fraternal countries, which have strong and long-standing historical, cultural, and religious ties. The two people have mixed for centuries and share numerous common values not to mention a very strong social bond. Therefore, it would be a historical mistake to let any artificial problems damage this beautiful friendship between the two countries. It is both necessary and easy for these two strong countries, which have been home to great civilizations of the past, to start a new era of strong cooperation and alliance, which will also make them superpowers in the world. An increase in trade volume will not only contribute to their respective economic development, but it will also bring a fresh wave of prosperity and activity to the region. Developing trade relations are always good for building alliances and friendly ties. For these reasons, keeping trade ties strong can lead to very important steps. Both countries are willing and eager for this. We hope that 2018 will be a year in which the foundations of this strong and deeply-rooted alliance are laid.