Turkey will look into appointing an ambassador to Egypt, the Turkish foreign minister said during a visit to Cairo on Saturday, the highest-level meeting for a Turkish official in more than a decade.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Egyptian counterpart amid a thawing of relations which started in 2021 following years of disputes over differing geopolitical and ideological positions.
“We need to act quickly and work closely in all areas, not only in appointing ambassadors, but also in closing the nine-year gap," Cavusoglu said at a news conference alongside Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry following their talks, according to the Turkish state news agency.
Neither side gave a time frame for when ambassadors would be reappointed.
The US supports rapproachement
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that the US welcomed the visit and that it was an “important step towards a more stable and prosperous region.”
The visit came after Shoukry visited the region in southern Turkey hit by a massive 7.8 earthquake last month.
During the World Cup in Qatar, which is one of Turkey’s closest allies, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were seen in photos together shaking hands.
“It’s part and parcel of the process of normalization between Turkey and Egypt,” said Atilla Yesilada, an Istanbul-based analyst and economist.
“It is an important step toward normalizing relations,” he said.
Yesilada cautions that there will not be an imminent final agreement due to Turkish national elections – which are set for May 14, with several polls showing that Erdogan is behind the opposition alliance’s candidate.
Why were relations strained?
One of the main strains on the relations between the countries has been that Ankara supported the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group in Egypt which Sisi opposes.
In 2013, Sisi ousted then-President Mohamed Morsi, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst for the risk intelligence company RANE, told The Media Line that the lack of presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt means that there is not much of a reason for the two countries to oppose each other anymore.
“Turkey wants … to continue to reinforce their reputation that they are a good regional actor. Egypt has been a sour spot since Morsi was overthrown in 2013,” he said.
Trade between the two countries has reached $9 billion, according to Egypt.
Cavusoglu said Turkey wants to improve energy cooperation with Egypt, a topic Ankara has repeatedly brought up with other countries it has improved relations with, including Israel.
Egypt and Israel, along with other rivals of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, are in a forum to cooperate in sending gas from the Middle East to Europe through Greece.
Ankara has insisted that the group needs permission from Turkey and its ally in Libya to send gas through the sea in an area where they claim to have territorial rights.
Libya has been another key difference between Cairo and Ankara.
Egypt sided with Khalifa Haftar, a general under former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi who launched an insurgency against the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, which Ankara has supported.
Erdogan has sought to improve ties with several countries in an effort to boost foreign investment while his country’s economy has struggled for years with massive inflation and a continually falling lira.
Bohl says economic concerns are the driving force for both Cairo and Ankara.
“I think in the immediate term they are looking to also see if they can get some sort of minor trade ties, business deals,” Bohl said. “They are looking for trade partners wherever they can and they’re not really in a position where they can afford, from an economic standpoint, confrontation.”
Turkey also has looked for financial support from other former rivals including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Yesilada told The Media Line the improved relations come down to money for Turkey, specifically pointing to $5 billion given to the central bank from Saudi Arabia, another country Ankara has improved ties with since they were severely strained in 2018 over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
“If Erdogan were to be reelected, and if he thinks that he can manage the financing of the current account without Saudi or Gulf Arab aid, I’m fairly sure none of these processes would lead to anywhere,” Yesilada said.