Turkish foreign minister in Cairo for first time since ties cut a decade ago

Published March 19, 2023
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (right) and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu give a joint press conference in Cairo on Saturday.—AFP
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (right) and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu give a joint press conference in Cairo on Saturday.—AFP

CAIRO: Egypt and Turkiye took another step towards mending relations on Saturday when Ankara’s top diplomat visited Cairo for the first time since ties were ruptured a decade ago and held talks with his Egyptian counterpart.

Relations were severely strained in 2013 after Egypt’s then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, an ally of Ankara, but have gradually thawed since 2021.

At a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said talks with Turkiye on the possibility of restoring ties to the ambassadorial level would happen at “the appropriate time”. He said the talks had been “honest, deep and transparent”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkiye would upgrade its diplomatic relations with Egypt to ambassador level “as soon as possible”.

“I’m very glad that we are taking concrete steps for normalising relations with Egypt… We will do our best not to rupture our ties again in future,” Cavusoglu said.

The United States welcomed the visit. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, writing on Twitter, said it was “an important step towards a more stable and prosperous region”.

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Last month, Shoukry visited Turkiye in a show of solidarity after the massive earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkiye and Syria — the first visit to Turkiye by Egypt’s top diplomat since relations soured.

“There is a political will and directives from the presidents of both countries when they met in Doha … to launch the path towards a full normalisation of relations,” Shoukry said.

He was referring to a brief meeting between Sisi and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the Qatar World Cup where they shook hands.

Erdogan once called Sisi a “tyrant” after he led the overthrow of Mursi, who was an ally of the Turkish leader and his Islamist-rooted AK Party.

Consultations between senior foreign ministry officials in Ankara and Cairo began in 2021, amid a push by Turkiye to ease tensions with Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

As part of that tentative reconciliation, Ankara asked Egyptian opposition TV channels operating in Turkiye to moderate their criticism of Egypt.

Mursi died in prison in Egypt in 2019. Other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood are jailed in Egypt or have fled abroad, and the group remains outlawed.

Cairo and Ankara have also been at odds over Libya, where they backed opposing factions in an unresolved conflict, and also over maritime borders in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean.

Last month, Egypt, which has been struggling to manage an acute foreign currency shortage, said Turkish companies had committed to $500 million in new investments in Egypt.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023

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