Press Review CW 7/2024: Rapprochement
Press Review 9 February 2024 to 16 February 2024

Erdoğan visits Cairo

On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in the Egyptian capital Cairo for bilateral talks, where he was personally received at the airport by his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. It is the first visit by a Turkish president since 2012 and is intended to mark a turning point in Turkish-Egyptian relations, as Al-Sisi and Erdoğan announced in a joint press statement. In particular, they want to further strengthen economic relations, which have grown steadily over the past ten years despite the freeze in diplomatic relations. Egypt is Turkey’s fifth largest trading partner. The trade volume between Turkey and Egypt is to be increased to 15 billion US dollars in the coming years compared to 6.6 billion in 2023, as the two presidents announced. Cooperation in the energy and defence sectors is also to be explored anew. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who accompanied Erdoğan to Cairo together with Defence Minister Yasar Güler and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, had already announced at the beginning of February that Turkey wanted to support Egypt with military drones. In a joint declaration signed by Erdoğan and Al-Sisi on Wednesday, they also agreed to improve the work and mechanisms of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council between the two states. The cooperation council, which takes place every two years alternately in Egypt and Turkey, is to be co-chaired by both presidents in future, while the foreign ministers will be responsible for coordinating and developing the agenda. In addition to improving bilateral relations, the talks focussed on regional challenges, in particular the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and the impending Israeli offensive on the Egyptian-Palestinian border town of Rafah. Against this backdrop, both called for an immediate ceasefire and expressed their willingness to work together at all levels for peace and stability in Gaza. Erdoğan is one of Israel’s harshest critics, while Egypt is considered an important mediator between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas alongside Qatar and the USA. Negotiations between Egypt, Israel, Qatar and the USA took place in Cairo on Tuesday, but were unsuccessful; the meeting with Erdoğan is now seen as a further attempt to increase the pressure on Israel. There also appears to have been a slight rapprochement in the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over possible natural gas reserves. Al-Sisi welcomed the Turkish-Greek rapprochement since the earthquake in February last year and signalled Egypt’s willingness to build on this and resolve the existing differences between the countries bordering the region. Erdoğan’s state visit to Cairo and his invitation to Al-Sisi to Ankara, which he accepted on Wednesday, marks the high point in the rapprochement between the two states to date. Diplomatic relations had come to a complete standstill in 2013 after Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and close ally of Turkey, was deposed by the military under the leadership of Al-Sisi. Erdoğan repeatedly described the change of power as a military coup, whereupon Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador. Turkey followed suit a short time later and declared Egypt’s ambassador persona non grata. Since 2021, Turkey has been pursuing a policy of rapprochement in order to end its political isolation in the region and reduce tensions with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Erdoğan and Al-Sisi had already met last September on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in India and in November in Saudi Arabia. In addition, both states sent ambassadors to each other at the end of last year for the first time since 2013.

 

Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch receives his Nigerien counterpart in Rabat

On Wednesday, Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine set off on a two-day working visit to Morocco together with Foreign Minister Bakary Yaw Sangari and Defence Minister Salifou Modi. In the capital Rabat, Zeine held bilateral talks with his Moroccan counterpart Aziz Akhannouch, among others. A meeting with King Mohammed VI was also on the agenda. The main reason for the visit was the so-called Atlantic Alliance – an initiative presented by King Mohammed VI in December last year to connect the Sahel states with the Atlantic via Morocco. Niger has now announced its participation in the initiative and is holding initial talks on its implementation. Securing new access to ports and thus to trade is becoming increasingly important for Niger after relations with Côte d’Ivoire – previously the most important sea access for the Sahel states – have deteriorated further since the unconstitutional uprisings in the region and most recently since Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (press review CW 5/2024). Morocco is now touting economic development for the region, made possible by access to the Atlantic. In the future, the landlocked countries of the Sahel region are to export their products and raw materials via the major ports of Western Sahara and Morocco and import capital goods, making Morocco a hub for the region. The plans of King Mohammed VI were already met with great interest at the summit with the foreign ministers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad in December. For Morocco in particular, however, the alliance also has important geopolitical aspects.Not only would Morocco be able to significantly expand its economic and political influence in the region with the help of a successful Atlantic Alliance and position itself as an indispensable mediator between the US, the European states and the Sahel states, Morocco could also considerably strengthen its claim to sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara through the recognition of both traditional allies and its neighbouring countries. Accordingly, Algeria, which competes with Morocco for regional influence and supports the Frente Polisario, which is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, is watching the rapprochement between Niamey and Rabat with concern.

 

Special news

The Constitutional Council of Senegal has declared the postponement of the presidential elections from 25 February to 15 December to be unconstitutional. As the Council announced on Thursday evening, both the provisional cancellation of the election by decree by President Macky Sall (3 February) and the subsequent setting of 15 December as the new election date by a legislative resolution in parliament (5 February) (press review CW 6/2024) are invalid. At the same time, the seven members of the council announced that they no longer considered it possible to meet the original deadline, but called on the authorities to organise the elections as quickly as possible. Macky Sall’s government has not yet commented on the ruling.

 

In other news

Africa Cup host Côte d’Ivoire secured its third AFCON title in the country’s history on Sunday with a 2:1 win over favourites Nigeria. The “Elephants” (Les Éléphants) got off to a more than bumpy start to the tournament. After a 4:0 defeat against outsiders Equatorial Guinea, they were almost eliminated in the group stage and then parted company with their coach Jean-Louis Gasset in the middle of the tournament. The team also initially trailed in the final, but secured victory in the second half with goals from Franck Kessie and Bundesliga professional Sébastien Haller of Borussia Dortmund. Thousands of football fans gathered in Abidjan on Sunday evening to celebrate their team’s success.

 

 

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