News Analysis: Turkey, Egypt bolster ties to address regional challenges

2013-02-07 18:45:15 GMT2013-02-08 02:45:15(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ANKARA, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) --Turkish president's recent visit to Egypt was seen as part of growing efforts on both sides to shore up their alliances against regional challenges.

President Abdullah Gul has paid a visit to Egypt at the invitation of his counterpart Mohamed Morsi earlier this week while attending the 12th summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"Egypt has been facing economic and social problems as well as political polarization at home while Turkey is concerned with the spillover effect of Syrian crisis and governance issues in Iraq," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, a professor of international relations at Ankara-based Gazi University, told Xinhua by phone, stressing that these problems force both countries to join their strengths.

Turkey has thrown a loan worth 2 billion U.S. dollars last year to Egypt to support country's ailing economy amid rampant unemployment and sharp reduction in government revenues, and Cairo is exploring ways to learn from Turkey's successful experience in economy growth and trying to lure Turkey in trade and investment.

Battered by the political crisis and mass protests at home, Morsi also banks on Turkish support to relieve domestic tension as well, observers said.

On the other hand, Turkey, fears the uncertainty in 22-month- long Syrian crisis, needs Egypt's help to facilitate the transition in its southern neighbor led by embattled President Bashar al-Assad as Ankara believes that Morsi, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized religious group across the Middle East, could have significant impact on Syria, where the Brotherhood is also strong.

"An Egypt that steps forward into democracy and development would benefit Turkey," Sedat Laciner, the president of 18 Mart University and professor of international relations, said, underlining that both countries could benefit from stability in the region.

Attending the OIC summit, both Gul and Morsi called for a quick solution to Syrian crisis. Morsi urged all OIC members to support the Syrian opposition's efforts to unite and bring about change. Gul echoed similar remarks.

Meanwhile, Turkish-Egyptian relations have also improved in the military field. The Turkish Navy and Egyptian Navy completed a joint naval military exercise, the "2012 Sea of Friendship," in the eastern Mediterranean last year. Turkey's trade volume with Egypt stood at 5 billion U.S. dollars last year and both governments want to double that figure in near term. Hundreds of Turkish companies in construction, manufacturing, textile and health care fields have invested in Egypt.

Egypt has also come to Turkey's rescue when a transit route to the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf market through Syria was cut off for Turkey. Ankara had to turn to Egypt to replace the route, starting from Turkish Port Iskenderun to Egyptian port at Alexandria and both countries wish to turn this route to an important trade hub between Europe to Africa.

"Stronger relations between Turkey and Egypt will make the region stronger," Ibrahim Kalin, the chief foreign policy advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that " While improving bilateral relations, Turkey and Egypt are set to develop a common strategic vision for regional and global issues."

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