Turkey and Egypt start dialogue after long crisis in relations

Turkish and Egyptian diplomats at meeting in Cairo, May 5
Turkish and Egyptian diplomats at meeting in Cairo, May 5

Closer ties between Turkey and Egypt will make a significant contribution to regional peace and development, senior Turkish officials have said underlining the positive atmosphere in recent "frank and in-depth" diplomatic talks to mend ties broken over a decade, Daily Sabah writes. Responding to questions from reporters in Istanbul following Friday prayers, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey currently is trying to regain and resume its historic unison with the people of Egypt. "It would be sad to see them in solidarity with Greece," Erdoğan said, referring to Athens and Cairo's joint hydrocarbon efforts in Eastern Mediterranean.

Regional issues concerning both countries were also addressed during the meeting, Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the issues of Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean are important for all countries, including Egypt. In addition, Turkey and Egypt never cut relations completely and had connections through certain other channels, including intelligence and diplomacy, he said, adding that now contact is maintained through deputy foreign ministers and that a full normalization would benefit both sides.

Earlier this year, Turkey said it had resumed diplomatic contact with Egypt and wanted to improve cooperation after years of tensions that began with the disruption of relations in 2013. On April 15, Çavuşoğlu announced in a live broadcast that the two countries had agreed that the channel first opened between Turkish and Egyptian intelligence would continue through the foreign ministries. Çavuşoğlu said Egypt had invited the Turkish side for the visit in early May, which is to be held at the deputy foreign minister level. After an inter-delegation meeting, Çavuşoğlu expressed his willingness to meet with his Egyptian counterpart as well. The top diplomat also recently announced that the countries have discussed appointing envoys.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt deteriorated after Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi toppled the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in a coup after only a year in office. Ankara has maintained its position that a democratically elected president cannot be deposed by a military coup and thus, has voiced its criticism of el-Sissi and his backers, including the West and some of Ankara’s rivals in the Gulf region. The Egyptian government, on the other hand, urged Turkey not to intervene in an issue that it considers to be the country's internal affairs. The dispute led to a deadlock in bilateral relations for many years.

Recently, however, signs of a possible reconciliation have come from both countries, particularly due to the changing dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkey-Greece crisis over the region’s energy resources. The two countries exchanged positive signals that pointed to establishing contacts and dialogue, including the possibility of holding talks to demarcate their maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean. Experts point out that cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean would benefit both countries while changing the region's balances.