Egyptian and Turkish officials meet for talks to mend rift

Egypt says ‘exploratory’ talks will focus on steps ‘that may lead towards normalisation of ties’ between two countries.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Sedat Onal, seated right, meets Hamdi Sanad Loza, Egyptian deputy foreign minister, along with their delegations, at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt [Nariman el-Mofty)

Egyptian and Turkish officials have met for talks aimed at resetting ties between the two regional powers after years of enmity.

The two-day “political consultations” on Wednesday between the two nations starting in Cairo were chaired by Hamdi Loza, Egypt’s deputy foreign minister, and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announced the meetings in a statement late on Tuesday.

It described the talks as “exploratory discussions” that would focus on “the necessary steps that may lead towards the normalisation of relations between the two countries, bilaterally and in the regional context”.

The statement did not elaborate.

Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the Egyptian military’s 2013 removal of the president from the Muslim Brotherhood group who enjoyed the support of Turkey. Egypt has designated the group a “terrorist” organisation.

Recently, top Turkish officials signalled a warming of ties with Egypt, a shift from their previous, sharply critical approach to the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on March 12 that the two countries have held “intelligence, diplomatic and economic” contacts, adding that he hoped for “strong” ties between the two nations.

A week after Erdogan’s remarks, his government asked three Istanbul-based Egyptian TV channels, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, to soften their critical political coverage of the Egyptian government. The TV channels immediately 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”.

Prominent Brotherhood figure Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar said Egyptian opposition groups in Turkey, which include liberals as well as Islamists, had been told Turkey’s push for better relations would not be at their expense.

“We … heard from Turkish authorities that they will not ask anyone to leave Turkey – from the Muslim Brotherhood or other groups,” he said.

Still, Egyptian officials say Turkey must take substantial steps towards “genuine” talks to mend ties. The steps include the departure of hundreds of Turkish troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries brought to Libya by Turkey, as well as the handover of Islamists wanted by Egypt on “terror”-related charges, they have said.

The two nations backed opposing sides in the conflict in Libya.

Cairo, as well as Greece and some other European countries, were also 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 that Ankara rejected.

Source: News Agencies