Turkey is looking to upgrade diplomatic ties with Egypt, after relations became strained when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would allow ministerial-level talks between the two countries, but ruled out meeting with the Egyptian president, Turkish media reported on Sunday.
“My stance on that issue is clear; in the first place, I will not meet Sisi until the decisions of a death penalty for Morsi and his friends are reviewed and lifted. Our ministers may meet with their counterparts,” Erdogan told reporters, according to a report by the Hurriyet Daily News.
“But I wouldn’t find our prime minister’s meeting [with his Egyptian counterpart] appropriate,” Erdogan added.
Erdogan made the comments on Friday while traveling from Dakar Senegal to Istanbul, on his way back from a Latin America tour where he visited Chile, Peru and Ecuador.
“Turkey and Egypt are two peoples, two countries which are from the same culture and believe in same standards of judgments. Of course, we shouldn’t break away,” the Turkish president said.
Selin Nasi, a columnist for the Turkish-Jewish weekly Salom and a contributor to Hurriyet Daily News, told The Jerusalem Post that mending the diplomatic situation with Egypt “constitutes a crucial step for the resolution of Turkey’s frozen conflicts in the region, namely Turkish-Israeli relations and the Cyprus issue.”
She continued, “Therefore, reconciliation with Egypt is likely to contribute to regional security and boost energy cooperation at the same time.”
However, Nasi said that the foreign policy objectives and the domestic priorities often conflict, with the latter limiting the available room to maneuver.
“It will be interesting to see if the two countries succeed in finding a middle ground for reconciliation by the time the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation Summit is held in Istanbul in April.”
Erdogan also said that he hoped that Egypt ally Saudi Arabia’s warming relations with the Muslim Brotherhood could affect Turkey-Egypt relations.
The Turkish government’s effort to improve relations with Egypt comes as numerous media sources report about a possible rapprochement between Israel and Turkey.
Erdogan’s latest conciliatory moves toward Israel and Egypt seem to show how the crisis over its downing of a Russian aircraft in November may be behind efforts to improve relations with regional powers.
After years of harsh rhetoric and actions against Israel, suddenly the ruling Islamist AK Party allowed the first ever public Hanukka event to take place in December.
Erdogan followed that up by speaking positively of normalizing relations with Israel.
Israeli and Turkish relations soured after a deadly 2010 incident, in which 10 Turkish citizens were killed as Israel enforced a maritime blockade on Gaza. The sides have been in contact to overcome that rift.
Turkey’s ruling government has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region and was outraged when Sisi ousted Morsi.