Egypt Has Its Say in Israel-Turkey Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -

Egypt has emerged as a complicating factor in Israel’s ongoing efforts to reach a rapprochement with Turkey.

Egyptian foreign ministry officials met recently with their Israeli counterparts to express concern over media reports that Israel might accede to Turkish demands for direct access to the Gaza Strip, Haaretz quoted senior officials in Yerushalayim as saying on Thursday.

The Egyptians met with Israel’s ambassador Haim Koren to clarify if Israel and Turkey really were close to ending their five-year diplomatic rift, and to make clear their opposition to any concessions to Turkey vis-à-vis Gaza.

Egypt and Turkey have had a rift of their own during the past two years, stemming from Turkey’s having taken sides with deposed president Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan still does not recognize al-Sisi as the legitimate president of Egypt. Following Erdogan’s statements, Turkey’s ambassador to Egypt was expelled in November 2013, with relations since then conducted only at a lower level.

Turkey’s close relations with Hamas further complicate matters, not only with Israel, but with Egypt, which has imposed an almost complete closure on the Gaza Strip from the Sinai and is opposed to any relaxation of Israel’s blockade.

A senior Israeli official confirmed that tensions between Egypt and Turkey have slowed negotiations with Ankara. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is worried that any concession made to Turkey on Gaza will damage Israel’s strategic ties with Egypt, he said.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed that Egypt has asked for clarifications. “Egypt wished to know where things stand,” he said.