Egypt and Turkey normalisation talks end with little progress

Regional powerhouses agree to meet again and say more needs to be done to improve relations

Talks in Ankara between Egypt and Turkey on normalising relations. Photo: Egyptian foreign ministry
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Egypt and Turkey on Wednesday wrapped up two days of talks aimed at normalising their tension-fraught relations, making little progress but agreeing to hold more discussions.

The discussions held in the Turkish capital Ankara were the second round between the two regional powerhouses since May.

The initial negotiations in Cairo were the first official high-level contact between Egypt and Turkey since relations soured over the 2013 removal in Egypt of former president Mohammed Morsi, who had good relations with Turkey.

“The two delegations touched on a number of bilateral issues in addition to several regional questions like the situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the East Mediterranean,” a joint statement said about the Ankara talks led by deputy foreign ministers from both sides.

“The two parties agreed to continue these consultations and emphasised their wish to make progress in the issues discussed as well as the need to take additional steps to facilitate relations between them,” added the statement without giving more details.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Bloomberg on Wednesday that Egypt was “eager to find a resolution” and a formula for restoring normal relations with Ankara, but more work needs to be done.

When Egypt is “satisfied” that outstanding issues have been resolved, the door will be open for further progress, Mr Shoukry said.

Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi giveS a joint press conference with the Ivorian president at the presidential palace in Abidjan, on April 11, during the Egyptian president's visit to Ivory Coast.

Talks between the two nations began after a series of goodwill gestures and positive rhetoric by Turkey earlier this year.

They were a part of an energetic diplomatic drive by Ankara to improve frayed ties with Arab heavyweights including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Turkish outreach is motivated in large part by Ankara’s wish not to lose the goodwill of some of its largest trade partners and also to secure a place in plans under way to turn the Eastern Mediterranean into a global energy hub after the discovery of massive natural gas reserves.

The energy plans are spearheaded by Egypt and Turkey’s arch-rivals and close Cairo allies Greece and Cyprus. They also include Israel, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinians.

Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads over Libya, where they supported rival factions and came close to war in the summer of 2020, when Turkish-backed Libyan forces looked set to march on eastern Libya close to the Egyptian border.

Cairo also accuses Ankara of supporting radical Islamic groups in the region and feels that its military presence across much of the Middle East and East Africa pose a threat to Egyptian national security.

Egyptian security officials say Turkey has met some key conditions set by Cairo for relations to be normalised, but pointed out that a great deal remains to be done by the Turkish government.

Foremost among Egyptian conditions is a withdrawal of Turkish forces and allied foreign militiamen from Libya to allow an internationally-backed political process to proceed to end the country’s decade-old civil war.

Egypt is also demanding the extradition of 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are wanted in Egypt in connection with terror attacks after Morsi’s 2013 removal.

Ankara has already ordered a halt to years of scathing criticism of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi by Turkey-based TV networks run or inspired by the Brotherhood.

Egypt has reciprocated by stopping personal attacks on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the pro-government media.

Updated: September 08, 2021, 6:06 PM