Turkey's Erdogan in Egypt on a visit that caps thaw in tensions

Turkish and Egyptian leaders hail 'new page in relations' as El Sisi announces return visit

Powered by automated translation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a milestone visit to Egypt on Wednesday, ushering in with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi a new era of friendship and co-operation between the two regional powerhouses after years of tension.

This is Mr Erdogan's first visit to Egypt in more than a decade, a period during which the two nations were mostly locked in a series of public and bitter squabbles over a range of issues, including Cairo's claims that Ankara meddles in the domestic affairs of Arab countries and supports militant groups.

The two leaders signed an agreement to create a joint organisation – the Strategic Co-operation Council – which will work to advance bilateral relations in all fields.

Erdogan visits Egypt for the first time in 10 years - video

Erdogan visits Egypt for the first time in 10 years

Erdogan visits Egypt for the first time in 10 years

The Egyptian leader also announced that he would visit Turkey in April for the proposed inaugural meeting of the council. The trip would be Mr El Sisi's first to Turkey since he took office in 2014.

Both leaders said they wanted to increase trade between their two countries in the next few years from about $10 billion at present to $15 billion and spoke of the historical and cultural ties binding the two nations.

"We share with Egypt a joint history that dates back more than 1,000 years and we want to advance relations. Egypt has the will to do that," Mr Erdogan said after talks with his Egyptian host, who said the visit "turned a new page in our relations."

Mr El Sisi received the Turkish leader on his arrival at Cairo Airport before the pair drove to the nearby Al Ittihadya Palace where Mr Erdogan reviewed a guard of honour before their talks.

Relations between the two nations became fraught in 2013 when Egypt's military, then led by Mr El Sisi, removed president Mohammed Morsi from power. The two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors soon after. Mr El Sisi was elected to office the following year.

The two countries began talks to normalise relations more than two years ago, with mid-ranking officials from each side discussing how to resolve outstanding issues. The process received a major boost when Mr El Sisi and Mr Erdogan met for the first time on the sidelines of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar in 2022.

The restoration of full diplomatic ties and the two countries' declared intention to embark on a path of co-operation signal a key change in the region's geopolitical landscape.

The two countries have backed rival sides in the conflict in Libya, next door to Egypt, in the civil war that erupted after the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Mr El Sisi on Wednesday said Egypt looked forward to co-operating with Turkey to bring stability to Libya through legislative and presidential elections.

Egypt is also opposed to what it considers to be Turkey's undue influence in Syria and Iraq, and perceived attempts to muscle in on Cairo's energy plans in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey's traditional rivals Cyprus and Greece.

However, Mr El Sisi struck an upbeat note on Wednesday on the future of those plans, saying he welcomed the "quiet" prevailing in the area at present and was looking forward to building on it.

Resolving differences between the region's littoral nations, he said, would bring maximum benefits to all parties from the huge reserves of natural gas in the area.

Both Egypt and Turkey command large armies and are able to exercise significant influence across the region. Turkey is the only Muslim country that is a Nato member, while Egypt is the most populous Arab nation.

Relations between the two countries and their peoples date back more than a millennium. Egypt became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and formal ties to Istanbul remained in place until early in the 20th century.

Mr Erdogan's visit comes after growing economic ties between the two countries.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said earlier this month that Ankara has agreed to provide Egypt with drones, the first known arms deal between Cairo and Ankara since their governments agreed in July to upgrade their diplomatic relations to ambassadorial level after the on-and-off talks to resume ties.

“Normalisation in our relations is important for Egypt to have certain technologies,” Mr Fidan said. “We have an agreement to provide [Egypt] unmanned air vehicles and other technologies.”

Mr Erdogan's visit takes on added significance because of the Gaza war.

Mr Erdogan and Mr El Sisi have each strongly criticised Israel over the high Palestinian death toll – more than 28,000, mostly civilians, have been killed so far – in the territory and the widespread destruction caused by Israel's war.

Both leaders on Wednesday called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 7:38 AM