Normalizing ties between Cairo and Ankara

The visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Egypt marks the start of normalizing ties between Cairo and Ankara after a decade of strained relations, experts said.

Cavusoglu held talks on Saturday with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Cavusoglu is the highest-ranking Turkish official visiting Egypt in over a decade.

“This visit laid the foundation for a serious process to restore normal relations between the two countries,” Abu Bakr al-Deeb, advisor to the Cairo-based Arab Center for Research and Studies, told Xinhua. “It is a start for an in-depth dialogue that aims to reach a common ground and achieves the interests of both parties.”

He noted that Egyptian-Turkish relations are witnessing positive developments that reflect the desire of the two countries for a comprehensive reconciliation, pointing out that Egypt’s support for the Turkish people after the massive earthquakes in February accelerated endeavors for reaching a settlement.

Egypt wants to build relations in the future on the basis of international law, and non-interference in its internal affairs, the expert said, adding that Ankara is apparently willing to accept this in order to make the reconciliation a success.

Türkiye’s relations with Egypt turned sour after former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July 2013 and his Türkiye-backed Muslim Brotherhood group was outlawed, prompting the two countries to expel each other’s ambassadors.

The two countries also sparred over a range of other issues, including the war in Libya, where they backed rival sides, as well as maritime disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cairo and Ankara stepped up efforts to normalize ties in 2021 when they held their first diplomatic talks in eight years.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met last year on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar and pledged to work on developing bilateral relationships.

“The issue of the Muslim brotherhood fugitives living in Türkiye, the media outlets that are against Egypt, and Türkiye’s military presence in Libya, are among the thorniest issues on the reconciliation agenda,” al-Deeb said, adding that the development of relations between the two countries will benefit the region as a whole.

During a press conference after his meeting with Cavusoglu, Shoukry said he had discussed with his Turkish counterpart the steps to restore ties, stressing that the return of each other’s ambassadors will take place at an appropriate time.

For his part, Cavusoglu said he is working with Shoukry to arrange a bilateral meeting between the presidents of Egypt and Türkiye.

Cavusoglu said positive steps will be taken to improve relations with Cairo, adding that Turkish companies will be encouraged to double investments in Egypt.

“The next step might be a meeting between the heads of the two states and it might be held before the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in May, which will help the Turkish president gain more popularity and support ahead of the polls,” said Abdel Mohdy Motawe, a Cairo-based researcher and executive director of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies.

Both countries share the same reasons to restore relations, he said, pointing out that the ailing economy in both countries and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that could reshape the international and regional geopolitical order, bring Egypt and Türkiye together.

“The reconciliation is the easiest way for them to solve their differences and face the international and regional challenges that have impacted Türkiye and Egypt, which are two key players in the region,” he said.

He explained that the priority now is to restore diplomatic relations, stressing that there is a will to resolve differences between the two parties.

“The progress in relations between Türkiye and Gulf countries, Egypt’s closest allies, has also helped restore normal relations between Cairo and Ankara,” the expert said, noting that the two countries want to create a strategic balance in the region, based on compromises, not concessions.

“The economic and investment aspects will help accelerate the reconciliation as Ankara wants to double its investments in Egypt, while Cairo is willing to increase its exports to the Turkish market,” Motawe said.

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