CAIRO (AP) — Turkey’s diplomatic chief was in Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian officials as regional powers try to mend their frayed ties after years of tension.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, arrived in the Egyptian capital on Saturday. He was the most senior Turkish official to visit the Arab world’s most populous nation in more than a decade.
Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 by the Egyptian military amid mass protests against his year-long divisive rule. Morsi came from the Muslim Brotherhood group, backed by Turkey. Egypt has designated the group as a terrorist organization.
Cavusoglu met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry for talks on “various aspects” of bilateral relations, said Ahmed Abu Zaid, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman.
Shoukry said the two sides had found common ground to revive political and economic relations to reach “conclusions in the interests of the two countries”.
“The talks were thorough, transparent and candid,” he said at a televised joint news conference. “We are definitely looking forward to it. Let’s look at everything that can benefit the two countries”.
Cavusoglu spoke of making up for lost time since ambassadorial-level relations ended in late 2013.
“There is a huge level of untapped potential, but unfortunately we have lost those nine years and to fill this nine year gap we need to work even harder,” he said.
The Turkish minister added that ties have been eroded “due to a lack of dialogue and misunderstandings”.
Referring to the appointment of ambassadors, Cavusoglu said he was certain that diplomatic ties would return to the “highest possible level”. He also hinted at the possibility of an official meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi after the Turkish elections in May.
Turkey has abandoned its critical approach to the Egyptian leader, who as defense minister led the military overthrow of Morsi in 2013. Erdogan and el-Sissi were photographed shaking hands in November during the World Cup in Qatar, as part of concerted efforts to mend ties.
The two countries have clashed in other areas, including Libya, where they support opposing sides. Such clashes nearly led to a direct confrontation between the two US allies in 2020, culminating in an attack on the Libyan capital by eastern-based commander Khalifa Hifter, who is backed by Egypt.
Egypt, Greece and some other European countries also fumed over a 2019 deal between Turkey and one of Libya’s rival governments that sought to bolster Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt and Greece have responded by signing a separate agreement to delineate their maritime borders, an agreement Ankara has rejected.
Saturday’s high-level visit was the first to Cairo by a Turkish chief diplomat since former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s official visit to the Egyptian capital in 2012 to attend a Syrian opposition conference held by the Arab League.
Shoukry and Cavusoglu met last month when Egypt’s foreign minister visited earthquake-hit Turkey and Syria to show solidarity with the two nations.
Associated Press writer Andrew Wilks contributed from Ankara, Turkey.