Turkey and Egypt appoint ambassadors to restore diplomatic ties

The two regional powers announce the key development in a joint statement after months of high-level talks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha, Qatar
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar [File: Handout via Press Office of the Presidency of Turkey/AFP]

Turkey and Egypt have appointed ambassadors to restore their relations at the highest diplomatic level.

In a joint statement released by the Turkish foreign ministry on Tuesday, the two governments said Turkey nominated Salih Mutlu Sen as its ambassador to Cairo and Egypt appointed Amr Elhamamy as its envoy to Ankara.

“This step aims at the renormalisation of relations between the two countries and reflects the mutual will to improve bilateral relations in the interests of the Turkish and Egyptian peoples,” the statement said.

Relations between Cairo and Ankara were severed in 2013 after then-military commander and current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a coup to remove President Mohamed Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, a political Islamist group active in multiple countries.

Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, had the support of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which was close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mensur Akgun, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Kultur University, said ties between two key regional players have been exceedingly poor since the 2013 coup in particular because of Ankara’s unbending stance against the government of el-Sisi, who became president in 2014.

“The political dialogue between the two sides was frozen until a few years ago, and the re-establishment of relations at the ambassadorial level today shows that the sides are ready to talk in the political sphere again,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I believe both countries understood that it is not possible to change the other and get a perfect addressee on the other side of the table,” Akgun said, adding: “They also should have come to an understanding to protect the optimum interests of both sides in the region.”

Since 2013, the two regional rivals have faced off on multiple fronts and their leaders have verbally attacked each other publicly, but they entered a rapprochement process in the 2020s.

Senior foreign ministry officials from the two countries have held talks since 2021, and rapprochement efforts between Turkey and Egypt took a turn after el-Sisi and Erdogan shook hands at the World Cup in Qatar in late 2022.

The two sides have held talks at the ministerial level multiple times in 2023, have sent each other friendly messages and have been openly negotiating on re-establishing full diplomatic relations.

Turkey’s regional outreach

Talks with Cairo were part of Ankara’s recent foreign policy initiative to repair relations with other regional powers, such as the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Before Ankara started efforts to fix its ties in the region, issues of disagreement between Ankara and Cairo included sharing hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, the conflict in Libya, the war in Syria and a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.

Turkey backed Qatar after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha in June 2017 in a development that created clear rival regional alliances.

The four Arab allies, supported by several additional countries, imposed a sea, land and air blockade on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism”, a claim the Gulf state has repeatedly denied.

Akgun said the resolution of the Gulf crisis in 2021 has been a catalyst for Ankara to repair its ties with regional powers.

“Qatar and Turkey are key geopolitical partners, and Ankara would never enhance its ties with the blockading countries to its current levels if the Gulf crisis was not resolved,” he said.

“I believe the resolution of the Gulf crisis has always been a precondition for normalisation of the ties with the four blockading Gulf states, and letting Qatar down was never an option for Ankara,” Akgun said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain signed agreements with Qatar in January 2021, lifted their blockade and normalised relations after more than three years.

Source: Al Jazeera