Turkey’s top diplomat visits Cairo to try to tighten ties
CAIRO — Turkey’s top diplomat was in Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian officials as regional powers seek to mend their frayed ties after years of tension.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister, arrived in the Egyptian capital on Saturday morning. He was the highest-ranking Turkish official to visit the Arab world’s most populous nation in more than a decade.
Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the Egyptian military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his divisive year in office. Morsi was from the Turkish-backed Muslim Brotherhood group. Egypt has designated the group as a terrorist organization.
Cavusoglu met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry for talks on “various aspects” of bilateral relations, said Ahmed Abu Zaid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Shoukry said the two sides had found common ground to revive political and economic relations to reach “conclusions in the interests of both countries”.
“The talks were thorough, transparent and direct,” he told a televised joint press conference. “We are certainly looking forward to it. We look at anything that can benefit both countries.
Cavusoglu spoke of making up for lost time since relations ended at ambassadorial level in late 2013.
“There’s huge untapped potential, but unfortunately we’ve lost those nine years and to close that nine-year gap, we have to work even harder,” he said.
The Turkish minister added that ties had eroded “due to lack of dialogue and misunderstandings”.
Referring to the appointment of ambassadors, Cavusoglu said he was sure diplomatic relations would return “to the highest possible level”. He also suggested the possibility of an official meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after the Turkish elections in May.
Turkey has dropped its critical approach to the Egyptian leader, who as defense minister led the military’s overthrow of Morsi in 2013. Erdogan and el-Sisi were pictured shaking hands in November at the World Cup in Qatar, as part of a concerted effort to mend ties. .
The two countries have clashed in other areas, notably in Libya, where they support opposing sides. Such clashes nearly led to a head-to-head clash between the two US allies in 2020 at the height of an attack on the Libyan capital by eastern-based commander Khalifa Hifter, who is backed by Egypt.
Egypt, Greece and some other European countries have also been angered by a 2019 deal between Turkey and one of Libya’s rival governments that sought to bolster Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt and Greece responded by signing a separate agreement to demarcate their maritime borders, an agreement which Ankara rejected.
Saturday’s high-level visit was the first to Cairo by a Turkish foreign minister since former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s official visit to the Egyptian capital in 2012 to attend a Syrian opposition conference organized by the Arab League.
Shoukry and Cavusoglu met last month when Egypt’s foreign minister visited earthquake-hit Turkey and Syria to show solidarity with the two nations.
Associated Press writer Andrew Wilks contributed from Ankara, Turkey.