turkey new-1679145166990
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry attend a news conference in Cairo on March 18, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

CAIRO: Turkey’s top diplomat said on Saturday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi would meet to mark the end of a decade of estrangement between the two countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking alongside his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry during a visit to Cairo, said Ankara wanted “to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries at the highest level”.

Cavusoglu’s visit follows a trip last month by Shoukry to Turkey in a show of solidarity after the devastating earthquake that claimed tens of thousands of lives in Turkey and neighbouring Syria.

“It is possible that we will disagree in the future, but we will do everything to avoid breaking our relations again,” Cavusoglu said.

Shoukry said the two sides have found common ground to relaunch political and economic relations to reach “conclusions in the interests of the two countries.”

“The talks were in-depth, transparent, and forthright,” he told a televised joint news conference. “We certainly look forward. We look at everything that can benefit the two countries.”

Cavusoglu spoke about making up for time lost since ambassador-level relations ended in late 2013.

“There is a huge level of untapped potential but unfortunately we have lost those nine years and in order to close this nine-year gap we have to work even harder,” he said.

Lack of dialogue eroded ties

The Turkish minister added that ties had been eroded “due to the lack of dialogue and misunderstandings.”

Referring to the appointment of ambassadors, Cavusoglu said he was certain diplomatic links would return to “the highest level possible.”

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 the Egyptian foreign minister visited quake-hit Turkey and Syria to show solidarity with the two nations.

Relations ran into trouble after the 2013 ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammad Morsi, an ally of Turkey.

At the time, Erdogan said he would “never” speak to “anyone” like Sisi.

But in November, Sisi and Erdogan shook hands in Qatar, in what the Egyptian presidency heralded as a new beginning in their ties, and the two leaders then spoke by telephone after the February 6 earthquake.

Cavusoglu on Saturday said the meeting between Erdogan and Sisi would take place “after the Turkish elections”, including the presidential vote slated for May 14.

While diplomatic exchanges were once frosty, business never stopped: in 2022, Turkey was the largest importer of Egyptian products totalling $4 billion.