Egypt, Turkey end talks, Turkish FM to visit Saudi Arabia
CAIRO – With no clear progress, Egyptian and Turkish officials concluded Thursday two days of talks in Cairo aimed at resetting ties between the two regional powers. In a joint statement, both sides vowed to evaluate the outcome of their first round of consultations before agreeing on the next move.
The talks were chaired by Hamdi Loza, Egypt’s deputy foreign minister and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal. Diplomats from both countries said they had discussed bilateral relations and several regional issues, including the situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the need to achieve peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean region. They hailed the deliberations as “frank” and “in-depth.”
The joint statement did not provide any further details. Earlier, Egypt’s foreign ministry described the talks as “exploratory discussions” to outline necessary steps towards the normalisation of relations between Cairo and Ankara.
Turkey is trying to mend fences with its regional rivals, including Saudi Arabia, with Turkey’s foreign minister planning to visit Riyadh next week.
The exact dates have not yet been set for Mevlut Cavusoglu’s first official visit to the oil-rich kingdom since 2017, said a Turkish official, who requested anonymity.
Turkey has been taking steps to fix its relations with Saudi Arabia, which remains an important trading partner.
On Tuesday, Erdogan spoke by phone with Saudi King Salman, although no details of those talks were released.
Turkey’s diplomatic moves towards easing tensions come as Ankara views mending ties as part of an effort to build bridges with US-allied Arab states after years of political rivalry and aggressive military interventions which demonstrated Turkey’s clout but frayed its alliances in the Arab world.
Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the Egyptian military-backed uprising in 2013 which toppled President Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is backed by Turkey but is considered a terrorist organisation by Cairo.
Recently, top Turkish officials signalled a warming of ties with Egypt, a shift from their previous, sharply critical approach to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in March that the two countries have had “intelligence, diplomatic and economic” contacts, adding that he hoped for “strong” ties between them.
A week later, Erdogan’s government asked three Istanbul-based Egyptian TV channels linked to the Brotherhood to soften their critical political coverage of Sisi’s government, according to editors at the stations. The TV channels promptly stopped broadcasting some political programmes.
Egypt welcomed the move, calling it a “good initiative from the Turkish side that establishes a favourable atmosphere to discuss issues of dispute between the two nations.”
Bones of contention
Egyptian officials, however, say Turkey must take substantial steps toward “genuine” talks to mend ties, including withdrawing hundreds of Turkish troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries brought to Libya by Turkey and also handing over Islamists wanted by Egypt on terror-related charges.
Egypt and Turkey have been supporting opposing sides in Libya. Egypt, Greece and some other European countries were angered by a 2019 Turkish deal with Libyan officials that aimed to boost Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean.
Egypt and Greece responded by signing a separate deal to delineate their maritime boundaries, a deal which Ankara rejected.