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

Egypt’s FM Sameh Shoukry and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu say diplomatic relations should be upgraded to ambassadorial level “as soon as possible”.

Egypt’s foreign minister has said talks with Turkey on the possibility of restoring ties with the ambassadorial level will take place at “the right time” during the first visit to Cairo by Turkey’s top diplomat since relations broke up a decade ago broken.

At a joint press conference on Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would upgrade its diplomatic relations with Egypt to ambassadorial level “as soon as possible”.

“I am very pleased that we are taking concrete steps to normalize relations with Egypt… We will do our best not to break our ties again in the future,” said Cavusoglu.

Shoukry said, “We will start talking (about ambassadors reinstatement) at the right 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, presided over the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood, an ally of Ankara, in 2013. El-Sisi was elected president the following year.

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

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

Diplomatic relations ‘still low’

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

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

“Turkey and Egypt support different parties. Turkey supports the Tripoli-based internationally recognized government (in Libya), while Egypt supports Benghazi, Khalifa Haftar and his army there,” Serdar said.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed insurgency that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and it split in 2014 between rival Eastern and Western factions, dragging regional powers with it.

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

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

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

Morsi died in prison in Egypt in 2019. Other high-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood are imprisoned in Egypt or have fled abroad, and the group remains an outlaw.

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

Struggling with an acute shortage of foreign currency, the Egyptian government said Turkish companies have pledged $500 million in new investment in Egypt.