The competition between regional and international powers has become evident in the course of the Libyan crisis since the end of the military operation launched by NATO against Libya in 2011, which ended the regime of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled the country for more than 40 years, turning the Libyan scene into an arena for opportunities and competition between Western powers and Turkey to win the Libyan oil resources. This competition has been exacerbated by the gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean region, as Libya has become the crucible for countries and regional and international powers.
In this context, the Mediterranean and its east were not far from the events taking place on the Libyan lands, as the eastern Mediterranean basin is considered a strategic area that controls the sea and air routes and migration routes. The rising interest not only expresses geopolitical motives, but is accompanied by the rise of the (Geo-economic) dimension on the agenda of regional and international actors, especially with talking about natural gas discoveries and the possibilities of investing them as a new source of energy.
The study deals with the Egyptian-Turkishrelations within the framework of the theory of power transition, especially since these parties are direct and indirect parties to the Libyan crisis and parties to the conflict over the eastern Mediterranean region, where changing the dynamics of wars led to the ongoing proxy In Libya, there have been military developments on the ground, which led to a fundamental change in the battle lines in the war. Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has faced challenges, due to internal divisions and external rivalries, and it has become a battleground for proxy wars over geostrategic influence in the eastern Mediterranean region.
The interest for the United States of America is to benefit from natural resources wherever they are, and for France, not to depend on Russia to meet its oil needs. To Turkey, its priorities are related to the security dimension, due to its geostrategic position, which prompted it to confront Greece and Cyprus. To Egypt, some observers say, is largely prompted by Cairo’s increasing fear of Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State (IS), gaining a foothold at home if the GNA defeats Haftar’s forces in Libya.“Egypt is very worried about militias; it is fighting extremists in Sinai and there have been extremists captured who have been linked back to militia groups in Libya and trained back in Libya,” Mirette Mabrouk, the director of the Egypt Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.
2- The issues in dispute between Egypt and Turkey:
Egypt and Turkey are the two largest regional countries whose relations are rooted in history since the era of the Ottoman Empire, and Egypt was distinguished during the Ottoman rule with a great position, due to its heavy population, religious and economic and its strategic location, as a link between the continents of Asia and Africa, so that Egypt was able, under the rule of Muhammad Ali, to compete the Ottoman Empire, capturing Syria and reaching the borders of the Turkish state itself, after expanding south into Sudan and the Upper Nile. In 2013, the Egyptian-Turkish relations witnessed the worst period in their history, especially in light of the Turkish positions adopted by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a gamble on the historical relations of the two countries, as he described the demonstrations against the rule of former President Muhammad Morsi and the army moved to achieve this The demands for a "coup" against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a Turkish media campaign against Egypt began. Turkey also sought to move through the Security Council to hold a special session to talk about the Egyptian issue, but Egyptian diplomacy succeeded in overcoming these moves.
• The issue of supporting terrorism.
The Egyptian state rejected Turkish interference in Egyptian internal affairs after the Brotherhood’s rule was removed from Egypt in the June 30 revolution. On November 23, 2013, Egypt decided to reduce the level of diplomatic relations with Turkey from the level of ambassador to the level of Chargé d'Affairs, and finally transferring the ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Turkey to the office General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo, summoning the Turkish ambassador in Egypt to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informing him that he is a "persona non grata" and asking him to leave the country.Egypt also accused Ankara of supporting and sponsoring terrorism in the region by embracing the terrorist Brotherhood group, and providing political and media support to its members with the aim of continuing to promote their subversive ideas in Egypt and the entire region, "and sponsoring terrorism in Syria, which resulted in a prolonged conflict, and deliberately targeting the Kurds with repression, murder and extermination." This falls under the category of crimes against humanity that require international accountability, as well as facilitating the passage of terrorist elements and foreign fighters and providing them with support to enter the countries of the region, Europe, Africa and Asia to destabilize them and promote an extremist ideology.In addition to supporting terrorist and extremist groups and armed militias in Libya, by providing all political and logistical support in terms of weapons and equipment and sending Syrian guerillas to fight in Libya.
• The Libyan crisis:
Turkey's signing of two memoranda of understanding with the reconciliation government led by Fayez al-Sarraj to define maritime rights and security and military cooperation between them in November 2019 represented a watershed point in the Turkish intervention in the Libyan arena. It turned into a direct intervention; as a result, Turkey increased its military support for the Al-Wefaq forces, in addition to providing them with high-quality armament systems that also provided them with Turkish military advisors and Syrian mercenaries affiliated with them, which contributed to transforming the course of the battle and the success of the Al-Wefaq forces from the removal of the Libyan National Army forces led by Field Marshal Haftar from the cities The western coast, Tripoli and its environs, Al Wattayah air base and the city of Tarhuna, and its retreat towards the city of Sirte and the Al-Jufra military base in the center of the country.
These areas were considered by Cairo as a red line for its national security, which prompted Turkey to retreat after threatening to continue fighting against the forces of Field Marshal Haftar, fearing the possibility of a military clash between two fierce powers such as Egypt and Turkey, where the discussion will not be limited to a direct military conflict, but the matter could expand to include a regional conflict.
It can be said that what concerns Turkey in Libya are several considerations, the first of which is securing an energy source.
“Turkey is a non-energy producing country and imports 95% of its needs from it that annually guarantees it about $ 50 billion and wants to stop this energy drain and have oil and gas sources, and second: Turkey has only 12 nautical miles, according to the 1982 Seas Agreement, as a sea border with no energy sources available, so it wants to expand on the continental shelf, perhaps finding a share for it, especially since the survey that was conducted for this region confirmed the existence of oil and gas sources concentrated in the triangle between Cyprus and Israel, and Greece, that is, east and south of Cyprus and not its north close to Turkey.
• Dividing the maritime borders in the Mediterranean.
On the other side of the Mediterranean, Egypt entered the gas market in the eastern Mediterranean and with it to the regional market during 2014-2015 when it announced the discovery of the Zohr field, which is the largest natural gas field discovered in the eastern Mediterranean in cooperation with an Italian exploration company, and this discovery reinforced the role of Egypt is in the natural gas market, especially taking into account its possession of two liquefaction plants for natural gas, and this discovery had been preceded by and since 2014 a marked improvement in Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot relations, with several tripartite meetings held, while Turkey found itself isolated in the context of these moves regional, Especially in light of the deterioration of its official relations with Egypt, its hostile stance on Greek Cyprus, and the negative legacy of its relations with Greece, and unlike the rest of the actors, Turkey entered the race for gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean late, as it launched its first ships (the Fateh ship) to explore for gas in At the end of 2018, but it is currently working to expand its gas exploration operations in the south, and in light of this, Egypt appears the most likely player to play an economic role in the Mediterranean gas, by relying on the Egyptian infrastructure to liquefy natural gas, and then export it to European markets. Which has not yet had luck in discovering any of the gas reserves off its coasts or the coasts of Turkish Cyprus, so it appears isolated in the northern part of the Eastern Mediterranean Basin.
• Intervention in the Arab countries
The Arab Republic of Egypt has expressed its rejection of the military operations carried out by the Turkish forces against the city of Afrin in northwestern Syria, as they represent a new violation of Syrian sovereignty, and undermine the efforts of existing political solutions and counter-terrorism efforts in Syria as well as its military interventions in Iraq, and in an attempt to find a foothold. On the Red Sea, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country had handed over the management of the Sudanese island of Suakin in the Red Sea. Suakin port is the oldest in Sudan and is used to transport passengers and goods to the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, which is the second port of Sudan after Port Sudan, and the Ottoman state had previously used the island Suakin as the center of its navy in the Red Sea between 1821 and 1885.
The Theoretical Framework and Study hypothesis:
According to the theory of power transition, the dynamics imposed by relations between regional powers not only determine the basic conditions for stability and peace, but also the elements of conflict. The study starts from a basic hypothesis that there is a strong correlation between the approach of the regional power gap that would increase in the pace of conflict steps between the competing countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, namely Turkey faces of Egypt, Russia, Turkey, France, Greece, and Cyprus .On a major question, what is the future of regional competition in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
The study relied on empirical, analytical approaches deduced from Power Transition Theory (PTT) to analyzing the relations between the competing parties in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, This study would explore the future of these relations and where they will go, is it to cooperation or conflict and what is the extent this conflict.
The theory of power transition is an extension or development of the constructive realist theory, and the basic premise of this theory is that when the power gap(PG) between two competing states are close, this is an indication of the possibility of conflict and war, as the motives for war between two countries, The second is the Military Burden Gap(MBG) between two competing states are close, this is an indication of the possibility of conflict and war, and by measuring these two gaps it is possible to know the behavior of states heading towards conflict.
Within the framework of this theory, the Military Burden Gap (MBG) is measured, as military capabilities are one of the important variables in the study of state power. For example, it shows the structure of power, trends of military capabilities, and the implications of conflict and its tools. The measures of military strength are important, especially in times of wars and conflicts. It gives an indication of the strength and continuity of the war . As for the measure of the comprehensive Power Gap (PG) in the state, where the study of power is at the core of the study of international relations and politics. Power is what determines the position of the state and its influence on the international or regional levels. Therefore, the force scale according to the theory of power transition is a dynamic measure and an accurate criterion for the results of the conflicts imposed by the competing countries on each other. This scale can predict the outcome of conflicts between advanced and less advanced powers.
Power Transition indicators
There are indicators that can be quantified, and countries are compared against them, such as total population, relative political power, military power, gross national product, and military burden.The military gapof Egypt and Turkey since 1960-2019 was and is declining. In other words, Egypt and Turkey are not ready to fight each other.
The second indicator of the interaction between power gap and military burden gap of Egypt and Turkey is not moving to conflict (Figure 2,3).Based on this theory, it excludes the occurrence of military action between Egypt and Turkey in view of the significant gap in the overall strength between the two countries in favor of Egypt with the accumulative power of the United Arab Emirates and the support of France, Greece, Cyprus, and Russia. Although there are disagreement and dissatisfaction between Egypt and Turkey on many issues as I mentioned above, but it is likely that Egypt and Turkey will adopt all political, diplomatic solutions, and military solution will be avoided from both of Egypt and Turkey.
In conclusion, it can be said that if Turkeycontinues to escalate towards conflict, perhaps Egypt will have other political and military steps to prevent irrational action by Turkey. While reaching an agreement must be sponsored by the United Nations and major powers in Europe. Still Egypt holds to its full right to protect its national security in Libya and theothers area of its interests.
Dr. Ashraf Singer
Research Fellow in International Politics, Trans-Research Consortium at Claremont Graduate University, California, and Member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs