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Turkey's top diplomat in Cairo for the first time in a decade

The visit comes as the regional powers seek to mend fractured ties after years of tensions
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) greets his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Cairo on 18 March 2023 (AFP)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that Turkey would upgrade its diplomatic relations with Egypt to ambassador level "as soon as possible".

The remarks on Saturday were made at a joint news conference, alongside Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during the first visit to Cairo by Turkey's top diplomat since ties ruptured a decade ago.

Cavusoglu said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyotian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would meet to mark the end the estrangement between the two countries.

"I'm very glad that we are taking concrete steps for normalising relations with Egypt... We will do our best not to rupture our ties again in future," Cavusoglu said.

"We will come to talks [on restoring ambassadors] at the appropriate time, depending on the positive results it brings," Shoukry added.

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The meeting follows a visit by Shoukry to Turkey last month, in a show of solidarity after two devastating earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people across Turkey and Syria.

Relations between Ankara and Cairo have been severely strained for nearly a decade. Erdogan refused to recognise Sisi as Egypt's legitimate leader after he led a military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president and an ally of Ankara, in 2013.

Consultations between the two countries' senior foreign ministry officials started two years ago. A Turkish delegation visited Egypt in May 2021 to discuss "normalisation", amid a push by Turkey to ease tensions with Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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In November last year, Sisi and Erdogan shook hands in Qatar, in what the Egyptian presidency heralded as a new beginning in their ties.

Turkish officials told Middle East Eye at the time that they believed that what Cairo had really been after was a handshake with Erdogan, which would signal complete acknowledgement of Sisi as the legitimate president of Egypt. 

Despite steps towards reconciliation, the two countries are still at odds over a set of issues: from competing interests in Libya to maritime borders in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the presence of members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey - a group Cairo has designated as a terrorist organisation.

But during the years of diplomatic tensions, business dealings between the two countries never stopped. In 2022, Turkey was the largest importer of Egyptian products, totalling $4bn.

The diplomatic rapprochement comes as Egypt is suffering a severe economic crisis that has seen the currency plummet and an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Last month, the Egyptian government said that Turkish companies had committed to $500m in new investments in Egypt.

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