Erdogan finds himself in a difficult position at the moment. His plan to assume a more important role in the politics of the Arab world as the new leader of the Sunni Muslims has failed for the time being. He is also in direct competition with the Saudi royal family, which claims this role for itself as the guardian of the holy places of Islam, Mecca and Medina. The current unrest in Jerusalem shows how complicated this game is for the Turkish president, who must clearly position himself on the side of the Palestinians, while most Arab heads of state remain conspicuously quiet.
The new understanding with Egypt is therefore a major setback for Erdogan. After all, after the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood, as-Sisi’s government was something of an arch-enemy of Turkey. However, this does not mean that Turkey could not benefit greatly from it. After all, an understanding between the two countries on the issues of natural gas production and military presence in the Mediterranean would be a great advantage. Turkey could expand its power in Libya and play off its rivals Greece, Cyprus and Israel further east. To achieve a hegemonic position in the Eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey wants to do, it needs at least one ally in the region, which could be in Cairo.
Egypt can also benefit from this new constellation. Due to the country’s economic weakness, which was once again made obvious by the Suez Canal disaster, and the domestic political conflicts with the Muslim Brothers and Salafists, the former centre of the Islamic world has become a secondary player. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both highly armed with the billions from the oil business, set the tone. However, they too have had to make adjustments recently. The lack of US support since Biden took office, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and military defeats, most notably in Syria and most recently in Yemen, have severely weakened their power. The diplomatic reconciliation with Israel is also likely to be watched with suspicion by many Muslims today, in view of the escalation in Jerusalem.
And that is why these states are also improving their relations with Turkey. So at the moment there is something like a race of reconciliations, and the state that has the best relations with the most countries could be the winner in the end. If Egypt succeeds in maintaining closer relations with Turkey than the Gulf monarchies, it could strengthen its position vis-à-vis them and regain an important position in the region.
The losers in this development are definitely Israel and Greece. Both have a number of conflicts with Turkey and are constantly trying to limit it´s influence. In this case, too, the situation in Jerusalem will be a test of strength. While Turkey is clearly positioning itself on the side of the Palestinians, Egypt is unlikely to do so publicly with such clarity. Jerusalem is once again the burden stone of the nations, as it says in Zechariah, and here also the general mood of reconciliation will be shown its limits.