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'A new era': Turkey's Erdogan in Egypt on first visit in a decade

Talks between the Turkish and Egyptian presidents focus on Israel's war on Gaza and bilateral ties
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (L) greets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Cairo airport, 14 February 2024 (Turkish Presidential Press Office/HO via Reuters)
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (L) greets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Cairo airport, 14 February 2024 (Turkish Presidential Press Office/HO via Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday on his first visit since 2012, in the biggest step yet towards cementing a rapprochement between the two regional powers.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi welcomed Erdogan on the Tarmac and the two exchanged a handshake.

After years in which they regarded each other as persona non grata - due primarily to Sisi’s 2013 coup against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi, an Erdogan ally - relations between the two leaders have improved since 2021, following behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts.

The first fruits of these efforts emerged during the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, when Erdogan and Sisi briefly met for the first time.

The two leaders signed several agreements on Wednesday, both advocating for "a new era in relations,'" an increase in trade to "15 billion dollars per year in a few years," and diplomatic cooperation in the Middle East and Africa.

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"Egypt is currently Turkey's top trading partner in Africa," Sisi said in a press conference with Erdogan in Cairo.

Erdogan's visit comes amid intensified international efforts, led by Egypt, Qatar and the US, to broker a new truce between Israel and Hamas.

An Israeli delegation was in Cairo on Tuesday, while a Hamas delegation was expected later on Wednesday.

The Turkish president has said that discussions with Sisi would focus on Israel's war on Gaza and efforts to end the offensive that has killed over 28,000 Palestinians since 7 October.

During his conference with Sisi, Erdogan denounced "the policy of occupation and massacres of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu," the Israeli Prime Minister.

He also called on the international community "not to let such madness that will lead to genocide happen", in reference to the imminent Israeli invasion of Gaza's southernmost city.

Sisi, on the other hand, criticised Israel for "the obstacles that slow down the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza."

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Turkey-Egypt relations are of critical importance not only for the two countries but also for the region, and must be evaluated as part of changing circumstances, analysts say.

Mehmet Ozkan, a professor at the National Defence University in Turkey, told Middle East Eye that after 7 October, when Israel launched its offensive on Gaza following a massive Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli towns, regional actors have realised that there was a "need for communication". 

Countries from Sudan to Ethiopia and Libya are also directly affected by the nature of relations between Cairo and Ankara, as both countries have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts.

"It is a shift from strategic stubbornness to strategic relations," Ozkan said.

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