Egypt and Turkey conclude 'frank' talks in Cairo

A rapprochement between Egypt and Nato-member Turkey has the potential to change the geostrategic landscape of the Middle East

Egypt's Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Sanad Loza meets with his Turkish counterpart and delegation in the foreign ministry headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on May 5, 2021. Turkey and Egypt have begun slowly warming ties as they vie for regional primacy a decade after the Arab Spring, but analysts say deep-seated mistrust means full normalisation will take time. The talks come nearly two months after Ankara established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013, as part of wider efforts to mend fences with Middle Eastern rivals / AFP / Khaled DESOUKI
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Egypt and Turkey wrapped up two days of “frank and deep” talks in Cairo on Thursday to normalise relations after eight years of tensions that pushed them close to hostilities last summer.

The two sides will assess the outcome of the talks before they decide on what to do next, a joint statement read.

The talks were seen as a dramatic turn in relations, whose sharp and rapid deterioration began when Egypt’s military removed Turkish-backed President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid a wave of protests against his divisive one-year rule.

Egypt and Turkey have since been at odds over a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the conflicts in Libya and Syria. Ankara has also attempted to muscle in on plans led by Egypt and Turkish rivals Greece and Cyprus to create a major energy hub in the East Mediterranean following the discovery of massive natural gas reserves.

“Discussions were frank and deep. They dealt with bilateral issues in addition to several regional issues, including the situation in Libya, Syria and Iraq as well as the necessity of achieving peace and security in the East Mediterranean,” said the joint statement.

“The two sides will assess the outcome of this round of consultations and agree on the next steps.” It gave no further details.

A rapprochement between Egypt and Nato-member Turkey has the potential to change the geostrategic landscape of the Middle East a decade after a series of the Arab uprisings wreaked havoc across much of the volatile region.

The list of issues over which the two nations differ is long and would require compromises from both sides, but recent signs are somewhat encouraging.

Last summer, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah El Sisi, said he was prepared to deploy troops to Libya, where Turkey was backing the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, if loyal militias took the town of Sirte from the Cairo-supported Libyan National Army and moved towards Egypt’s borders in the east.

But things have changed a great deal since in energy-rich Libya, where a ceasefire has been holding in the conflict-wracked country and a new unity government is in place.

Egypt is demanding the withdrawal of Turkish forces in Libya as well as foreign fighters shipped there by Ankara.

In a gesture of goodwill, Turkey has ordered three opposition television networks operating from Turkey to tone down criticism of the Egyptian government. Ankara has yet to decide on whether to extradite wanted members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood to face terror-related charges in Egypt.