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Qatar World Cup: Erdogan and Sisi meet for first time during opening ceremony

Turkish and Egyptian leaders pictured shaking hands for the first time following nearly a decade of tensions
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup opening ceremony in Doha (Reuters)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup opening ceremony in Doha (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el Sisi met for the first time during the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar on Sunday. 

The two leaders were pictured shaking hands in the presence of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the sidelines of al-Bayt Stadium in al-Khor, on the outskirts of Doha, ahead of the first match of the tournament. 

Relations between Ankara and Cairo have been fractured for nearly a decade. Turkey refused to recognise Sisi as Egypt's legitimate leader following a 2013 military coup that ousted his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president.

In February 2019, Erdogan said he would not meet Sisi until Egypt’s political prisoners had been released. Human rights groups say Egypt holds 65,000 political prisoners.

“I will never meet with such a person. First of all, he needs to release all prisoners with a general amnesty. As long as he does not release those people, we cannot meet with Sisi,” the Turkish president said at the time. 

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Middle East Eye reported earlier this week that Erdogan had indicated that he would re-evaluate relations with Egypt and Syria after domestic presidential and parliamentary elections next year. 

Along with Sisi and Erdogan, several Middle Eastern leaders were in attendance at the opening ceremony in Qatar, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Mohammed bin Salman, once a foe of Doha who led an economic and political blockade of its Gulf neighbour between 2017-2021, looked on smiling and clapping whilst sat next to Fifa President Gianni Infantino. The Saudi de-facto ruler was seen wearing a scarf with Qatari colours earlier in the day.

Among the stars to perform ahead of the opening match between the hosts and Ecuador were Qatari singers Dana and Fahad al-Kubaisi, as well as Jung Kook, a member of South Korean boyband BTS. 

American actor Morgan Freeman also delivered a message of unity and overcoming divisions with disabled Qatari influencer Ghanim Al Muftah.

Hosts Qatar were comfortably beaten by Ecuador 2-0, thanks to two first-half goals by former West Ham and Everton forward Enner Valencia. Many seats remained empty after half time, and a flat second half prompted further walkouts before full time.

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