Top Egypt, Turkey diplomats hold first Cairo talks in a decade | News

Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu say diplomatic relations to be upgraded to ambassador level ‘as soon as possible’.

Egypt’s foreign minister has said talks with Turkey on the possibility of restoring ties to the ambassadorial level would happen at “the appropriate time” during the first visit to Cairo by Turkey’s top diplomat since relations ruptured a decade ago.

At a joint news conference on Saturday Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey 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.

Shoukry said: “We will come to talks (on restoring ambassadors) at the appropriate time, depending on the positive results it brings.”

Ties between Turkey and Egypt were severely strained after Egypt’s then-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led the removal of Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara, in 2013. El-Sisi was elected president the following year.

The two countries have also been at odds in recent years over Libya, where they backed opposing factions in an unresolved conflict, and also over maritime borders in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean.

Cavusoglu said on Saturday that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt’s el-Sisi would meet “after the Turkish elections”, including the presidential vote slated for May 14, to mark the end of a decade of estrangement between the two countries.

Diplomatic relations ‘still low’

Reporting from Istanbul, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar said that two intertwined issues remain unresolved in Egypt-Turkey relations.

“There is a promise of restoring ties, but relations on a diplomatic level are still quite low,” said Serdar, pointing out that the countries’ opposing positions on Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean are the main sticking points.

“Turkey and Egypt are supporting different sides. Turkey is supporting the Tripoli-based internationally recognised government [in Libya] while Egypt is supporting Benghazi, Khalifa Haftar and his army there,” said Serdar.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, and it split in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions, dragging in regional powers.

“In 2019, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum was formed … but Turkey has been purposefully excluded. In response, Turkey has signed a maritime deal with the Tripoli-based government,” Serdar added.

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

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

Morsi 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.

Last month, Shoukry visited Turkey in a show of solidarity after the massive earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Egypt’s government, which has been struggling to manage an acute shortage of foreign currency, said Turkish companies had committed to $500m in new investments in Egypt.

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