by Shi Zhuying
ISTANBUL, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Turkey, a NATO member with a Muslim majority, is forging closer ties with Egypt, a leading Arab country, in a bid to cooperate in reshaping the Middle East in the wake of the Arab revolutions.
Bilateral relations is getting warmer after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's visit to Turkey last Sunday. During the visit, the two sides signed a billion-dollar loan agreement to support bilateral trade. Cairo even plans to open a Turkish-language TV channel.
Professor Dogu Ergil, a political scientist from Ankara University, said that the two giant Muslim countries seems likely to form some kind of alliance under the principles of self- determination, resisting foreign intervention, economic development and building a common Islamic culture zone.
He believed that such an alliance would help foster camaraderie and solidarity rather than antagonism and conflict in the region.
Although Mohamed Morsi has taken office as the new Egyptian President for only a few months, there are strong signs that Morsi wants Egypt to play an active role in the Middle East and work together with Turkey for a greater regional influence.
Turkey, for its part, tries to bring the post-revolution Egypt back to the stage and be in its favor, said Gokhan Bacik, director of the Middle East Strategic Research Center at Turkey's Zirve University.
"Turkey prefers Egypt better than other countries like Saudi Arabia or Qatar as the credible alliance to increase its legitimacy and have a stronger say in the Middle East," Bacik added.
"Egypt is a good alternative for Turkey, given the current tensions between Turkey and its Middle Eastern neighbors Iran and Iraq," Arif Keskin, a foreign policy analyst at the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis.
In addition to mutual benefits for Turkey and Egypt, the flourishing ties between the two Middle East giants would bring about regional stability and prosperity, said Abdullah Bozkurt, a Middle East analyst.
"Turkey and Egypt can work together in revitalizing the peace process and Palestinian unity efforts and balancing other regional powers like Iran and Israel. No doubt that both Turkey and Egypt are strongly opposed to Iran's nuclear program and Israel's waging regional conflict to advance its own national interests," he said.
There is strong basis for the two countries to strengthen their already close ties. "Egypt used to be part of the Ottoman Empire. People from Egypt feel very close to Turkey both in culture and social customs. Turkish TV series and films are very popular among Egyptian public," Egyptian consul to Istanbul Ahmed Bassiouny told Xinhua.
Moreover, he added, President Morsi, who used to head the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), feels close to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, which is also from conservative Islamic background.
The political leaders from Egypt and Turkey share similar views and way of thinking, he said.
CERTAIN OBSTACLES REMAIN
However, there are certain obstacles that may hinder the future development of bilateral ties.
"First, Turkey's perception of Egypt is not clear yet. Turkey is not sure how Morsi is going to rule Egypt and thus hasn't developed a specific foreign strategy to deal with Egypt," Bacik said.
Second, he said, there would certainly be future competitions between the two countries, both aspired to be the leader of the Middle East. As for Egypt, it always addresses itself as "model of Arab countries." But for now, Turkey and Egypt need each other's support rather than making rivalries.
Middle East analyst Bozkurt told Xinhua that Turkey and Egypt's common effort in seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad would have a great impact.
"Turkey and Egypt are two heavy-weight countries in this region. They are now discussing uniting Syrian opposition groups, and funding, to end the civil war," Bozkurt said. "This joint effort would definitely influence the stance on Syria of other countries, such as Iran."
For example, he said, Iran immediately agreed to join the talk of Middle East Quartet with Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to seek solution to Syrian crisis.
"Iran does not want to get isolated in this region if Turkey and Egypt are closely cooperating to oust Assad," Bozkurt said. " Egypt is ready to resume its work in resolving region-wide issues such as the Syrian crisis. Turkey is happy to have Egypt by its side."
In addition, both Egypt and Turkey are populous countries with dynamic domestic markets. Egypt especially needs developing investment and trade ties with Turkey for its economic recovery, said Bacik, of Turkey's Zirve University.