The potential for Turkey - Egypt defense deals as diplomatic ties are established

The potential for Turkey - Egypt defense deals as diplomatic ties are established
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This month, the relationship between Egypt and Turkey significantly improved, with defense ministers agreeing to reestablish ties. Experts at Breaking Defense evaluate whether this development is an indicator of potential defense and security deals.

After a decade of severed diplomatic ties following the coup that deposed of Erdogan’s ally Mohammed Morsi, Egypt and Turkey reached an agreement for rapprochement earlier this month with the foreign ministers of both countries meeting in Cairo.

This meeting between foreign ministers Mevlut Cavusoglu and Sameh Shoukry included discussions about trade, transportation, defense cooperation, and military issues within the region.

Agnes Helou spoke to experts for Breaking Defense magazine to evaluate the nature of the rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey, and whether it constitutes a prelude for potential defense cooperation.

Helou writes that “a cooling of diplomatic tensions wouldn’t necessarily, or quickly, translate to a dramatic change in cooperation on defense issues or any major defense procurement deals. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t longer-term interest.”

Middle East defense expert Arda Mevlutoglu says, “Before the coup in 2013, Egypt was interested in acquiring UAVs, corvettes and armored vehicles from Turkey. After a possible re-establishment of strategic partnership, drones, guided weapons, armored vehicles and C4ISR systems [could] be acquired.”

Though the two countries have paved the way for the restoration of diplomatic ties, they are still on opposite sides in regional conflicts such as the Libyan crisis where Turkey supports the Tripoli-based government while Egypt backs the Libyan National Army.

David Des Roches, associate professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies, notes, “Libya is definitely a point of contention, and the fact that we are seeing this agreement [between Turkey and Egypt] now may mean both parties judge the situation in Libya is close to either a settlement or at least a stable division.”

Some, such as Ahmad Eliba at the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, disagree. Eliba emphasizes that since the countries did not have extensive defense cooperation before 2013, there is no reason to assume one will flourish now.

However, others believe that Egypt and Turkey could benefit from working together in defense matters, particularly with regard to Turkey’s Bayraktar armed drones, which Egypt would be willing to purchase, according to Des Roches.

In addition, the analysts agree that both Egypt and Turkey are interested in developing their defense industry capabilities and could become joint production partners in the future.

Ultimately, however, the experts who spoke to Breaking Defense are all of the mind that “it’s too early to predict and critical hurdles remain.” Trust must be established between the two countries before any defense or security agreements can follow.