Turkey Rejected a Russian Proposal to Invite Egypt to Astana Talks

Despite Moscow’s plan to invite Cairo to join the meetings of the three guarantor states -Turkey, Russia, and Iran- in Astana to resolve the Syria, but it was forced to call off the invitation after Ankara’s opposition, according to al-Tahrir, an Egyptian privately-run newspaper.

The Egyptian-Turkish relations deteriorated after the military coup in 2013 led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The coup overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. Turkey provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and it doesn’t recognize al-Sisi military regime.

The ‘Izvestia’ Russian daily newspaper quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Moscow suggested that Cairo should join the group of mediators, which was welcomed by Damascus and Cairo but Ankara criticized the idea.

The Russian newspaper highlighted the importance and necessity of Egypt’s accession to the group of Turkey, Russia, and Iran to end the crisis in Syria, quoting Vladimir Jabarov, the first vice president of the Russian Parliament’s international committee, who said that it will be useful to reinvigorate Cairo’s role for resolving crisis in Syria.

In addition, Vitaly Naumkin, Russia’s adviser to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, said that he did not rule out a possibility that the Arab countries, which were impacted by the Syrian crisis, could join the three guarantor states of the Syrian peace process, noting that Egypt could play a huge role in the start of the peace settlement, according to Sputnik(Russia’s State-owned News Agency).

In fact, the stance of Egypt’s al-Sisi regarding the Syrian issue has been close to the Russian and the Iranian axis which led to negative repercussions between Egypt and it’s major Gulf financial backer,Saudi Arabia.

The relations between Cairo and Riyadh have soared due to the divergent foreign policies between both countries towards the Syrian crisis.

On October 8 2016, Egypt voted on the Russian-backed draft resolution on Aleppo in the United Nations security council has exposed an unprecedented rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The vote triggered the first public condemnation by the Saudis of the Egyptian regime, which they helped bring to power three years ago.

The Saudi criticism also coincided with cutting monthly discounted oil shipments to Egypt, a much-needed support for the country’s deteriorating economy.

Later Egypt started to take part in Syria peace talks based on requests from Iran which insisted on Egypt’s participation in Lausanne conference in 2016.

The Guardian revealed leaked emails last October that which showed that Iran had requested the lobbying for Egyptian officials to attend the talks on the Syrian crisis in Lausanne conference.

The Guardian said that it has seen emails indicating that the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, asked Kerry for Cairo’s team to attend the Lausanne talks. When the US secretary of state proposed six-nation talks to “see if a new reasonableness can manifest itself” in Syria, Zarif replied: “Why not Egypt too?”

Iran agreed to attend the talks only once it had secured places for the foreign ministers of Egypt and Iraq at the discussions, according to the Guardian.

In addition, a new batch of leaked audio phone calls were broadcasted by Mekameleen TV Channel for Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, while discussing recent events with al-Sisi, showed the reason behind Egypt’s participation in Syria Peace which was held in the Swiss city of Lausanne in October 2016.

Shoukry said in the leaked audio that John Kerry told him that Iran insisted on Egypt’s participation in the peace talks, “US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to me about an hour and a half ago and proposed that I attend the Lausanne meeting,”

He added, “He told me clearly that Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif made it a condition that Egypt must attend.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister told al-Sisi that he believes that,”the meeting will further complicate the relations with the Saudi Kingdom and that its better not to attend.” He also added,”Our participation has negative repercussions rather than positive ones.”

Shoukry added that Kerry had earlier excluded Egypt from the meeting,  justifying the decision by saying that the talks were only for “parties that have military impact on the ground, and therefore they did not want to involve Egypt”.

Shoukry also said, “The invitation came after they initially decided not to invite us,” he added, “The Russians proposed inviting us but it was the Americans who initially objected. The Russians then did not insist.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister said to al-Sisi that he thinks that Iran is taking advantage from the situation (he means the tensions in the Egyptian Saudi relations).

However, al-Sisi has accepted the invitation but he wanted Kerry to announce Egypt’s attendance in order not to uncover Iran’s insistence on Egypt’s participation.

Shoukry said he will “get Kerry to issue a statement in which he stresses that he extended the invitation. He continued, “We will also…issue a statement that I received the invitation from him.”