Turkey’s Erdogan on first Egypt visit in decade with Gaza in focus

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

CAIRO/ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan made his first visit to Egypt since 2012 on Wednesday to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, taking a big step toward rebuilding relations between the regional powers.

Erdogan has said discussions would focus on Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. The leaders, whose relations frayed over Egypt’s 2013 military coup and its fallout for the Muslim Brotherhood, planned to hold a joint press conference later.

The visit caps diplomatic efforts in recent years to thaw the nations’ frosty relations. They mutually appointed ambassadors last year, and this month Turkey said it would provide Egypt with armed drones.

Relations between Ankara and Cairo broke down in 2013 after Egypt’s then-army chief Sisi led the ouster of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, an ally of Turkey who had become Egypt’s first democratically elected president the year before.

Sisi greeted Erdogan as he emerged from his plane in Cairo with his wife and they conversed as they walked along a red carpet amid a fanfare, live television footage showed.

According to a draft programme, Sisi and Erdogan were to hold bilateral talks before a meeting between the two delegations, with a formal dinner planned.

Erdogan has sought to ease tensions with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel since 2021 – though since October he has publicly sniped with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s devastating war against Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Egypt, Israel, Qatar and the United States held inconclusive talks on Tuesday in search of a Gaza truce agreement. Cairo has made clear it will not allow an exodus of Gaza refugees over its border with the shattered Palestinian territory.

Mursi died in prison in Egypt in 2019. Other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood are jailed in Egypt or have fled abroad, including to Turkey. The Brotherhood remains outlawed in Egypt.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Tala Ramadan in Dubai, Ece Toksabay in Ankara; writing by Jonathan Spicer and Daren Butler; editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Heinrich