Turkey-Egypt meetings to continue after ‘frank talks’

Turkey and Egypt will hold further meetings after making progress in two days of “frank” discussions aimed at normalising relations, according to a joint statement on Thursday.

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal began talks with his Egyptian counterpart Hamdi Sanad Loza in Cairo on Wednesday, the first high-level meeting between the two countries since 2013.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been strained over a range of regional issues, including maritime borders and Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The discussions were frank and in-depth. They addressed bilateral issues as well as a number of regional issues, in particular the situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and the need to achieve peace and security in the eastern Mediterranean region," the deputy foreign ministers said.

Ankara and Cairo have backed opposite sides in the Libyan conflict, with Turkish military support, including Syrian mercenary fighters, proving crucial to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord seeing of an offensive by General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army last June.

Turkish officials are now ready to meet Libyan and Egyptian representatives over differences in Libya, including the presence of foreign fighters, Reuters reported citing Egyptian sources.

Commenting on the talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told state-broadcaster TRT Haber that the meetings had been held in a “positive atmosphere”.

“Our friends discussed bilateral relations and what could be done about it," he said.

Ankara is seeking to mend ties with several Arab states as part of a wider reset with U.S. allies following the election of Joe Biden. But divergent attitudes to political Islam have repeatedly proven a stumbling block.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) shares an affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood and strongly opposed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s ousting of the group from government through a military takeover in 2013. Much of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership fled to Turkey, where it continues to operate to the ire of Egyptian authorities.

However, the Turkish delegation this week told their Egyptian counterparts that Ankara could not hand over Muslim Brotherhood figures wanted by Cairo, as they have now legalised their residency in Turkey, according to Reuters.

On Saturday, the Islamist group thanked Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for providing them a safe haven from persecution in Egypt.