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July 08, 2012, Sunday

Why should Mursi make his first visit one to Turkey?

After Egypt’s first democratic leader, Mohammed Mursi, took his place in the presidential palace, attention turned to the destination of his first foreign visit. This visit bears great importance in terms of giving clues about the domestic and foreign policies that Mursi will pursue.

According to many Arab academics and experts, the first visit should be made to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is home to over 1 million Egyptians. Additionally, it has guaranteed economic support to Egypt. For the purpose of allaying the Saudi regime’s concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood, it seems that such a trip would be beneficial.

Qatar has been named as a second alternative. The country played a leading role in toppling Mubarak’s regime by using its media power, primarily the state-owned Al Jazeera television station. It gave overt support to the Muslim Brotherhood’s sweeping to power. Besides this, Qatar is among the primary countries that invest in and give aid to Egypt.

However, whatever Mursi’s reasoning, no other choice for first foreign visit could be as impressive as a visit to Turkey.

Unlike what some claim, a visit paid by Mursi to Turkey would not be perceived as the collaboration of two Islam-oriented governments.

On the contrary, a possible Turkey visit from Mursi, who is facing criticism from people who suspect that he will implement a secret agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, will make a very positive impression on the Egyptian people who want democracy. Its first serious effect will be that it will enable some psychological relief in this respect.

Turkey has a very positive impact on the Egyptian people with its culture and natural wealth, besides the economic, diplomatic and political achievements of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Additionally, Turkey bears the advantage of having very similar features to Egypt. We can tell that very easily: Egypt may be an Arab country but it has more in common with Turkey than it does with Saudi Arabia or many other Arab countries.

A probable Turkey visit from Mursi definitely cannot be interpreted as Mursi taking Turkey as a model or as an example. However, discovering America again is nonsense. Turkey’s 80-year struggle for democracy may pave the way for Egypt to more easily deal with many problems, from relations between the military and the government to the rights of minority groups, religious freedoms and social justice.

Western countries will react very positively to a prospective visit. With a visit to Ankara, Mursi will have given the West the message about “what kind of democracy” he wants. The West believes that with Mursi’s victory in the elections the Muslim Brotherhood will now radicalize the country. Moreover, some radical media groups even allege that Mursi will turn Egypt into Afghanistan.

The most important impact of the visit will be on bilateral relations. A Turkey-Egypt collaboration that will be forged in all fields will initially create an impulse and strong motivation for the solution of regional problems.

With regards to all regional issues -- from Israel/Palestine to Iran and from Syria to Iraq -- Turkey and Egypt pursue similar policies. A strong collaboration between the region’s two most important countries will simplify the solution of all these questions and also lessen the involvement of foreign powers in the region.

Strong economic cooperation will make major contributions to the economies of the two countries. Unlike what has been alleged, Turkey will not dominate Egypt in economic terms. For years a similar fear of EU domination of the Turkish economy had also been expressed before the Customs Union was signed between Turkey and the European Union. However, although it favored the EU, the Customs Union played an important role in Turkey’s economic transformation.

By means of joint projects that can be established, the two countries -- both of which have a dynamic and young population -- will reinforce their economic strength. Aside from the EU, Turkey serves as a bridge for Egypt to Russia, the Turkic republics of Central Asia and less directly to Iran in the face of strained and less developed ties between Iran and Egypt. Similarly, Egypt is situated at the most important gateway for Turkey to Africa.

With a visit to Turkey, Mursi would partially get rid of the “pro-Muslim Brotherhood” label that is put before his name and his identity as the leader of Egypt would become more prominent.

As a result, a Mursi visit would refute the claims of a regional competition that have been made for years. Turkey and Egypt competing with each other harms both countries. Therefore, the two countries avoiding conflict and competition with each other and, rather, complementing each other will bring great advantages in all aspects.

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