Turkey, Egypt Start Talks to Try to Restore Relations

Turkey and Egypt will start two days of political consultations in Cairo on Wednesday to try to mend relations strained for years over Islamist politics and regional conflicts.

The talks will be chaired by Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and his Egyptian counterpart Hamdi Sanad Loza. Turkey characterized them in a statement late Tuesday as “exploratory discussions” that will focus on steps necessary to restore normalized ties in both a bilateral and regional context.

Turkey said it resumed diplomatic contacts with Egypt in March though both governments stressed that it would take time to rebuild trust and upgrade ties. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been a supporter of Islamist political movements that are seen by many Arab governments as a threat to the ruling order.

Turkey has been seeking to reset relations with the Arab world since Joe Biden’s win of the U.S. presidential election in November prompted a recalibration of ties in the Middle East. Turkey reasons that improved relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia could lower tensions and encourage regional stability from North Africa to the eastern Mediterranean.

In addition to the Egypt outreach, Erdogan also spoke by phone late Tuesday with Saudi King Salman and exchanged views on bilateral relations, according to the president’s office.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt soured after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi toppled the country’s elected Islamist leader, Mohamed Mursi, in 2013. Since then Egypt and Turkey have also clashed over maritime claims, Libya and Turkish incursions against Kurdish separatists based in Iraq.

Erdogan has made a number of overtures aimed at repairing ties in recent months, with Turkey saying it hoped to reach a deal with Egypt over maritime boundaries in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are also seeking to reset relations with Turkey for the benefit of regional security and trade.

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