Turkey’s Erdogan lands in Cairo on first visit in since 2012

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday on his first visit since 2012, sealing a thaw in ties between the regional heavyweights.

Erdogan was welcomed at Cairo airport by his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the two men exchanged a handshake on the tarmac, live footage of his arrival showed.

Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war, said Monday that he would discuss with al-Sisi efforts to halt the bloodshed.

Egypt has been hosting joint efforts with Qatar and the United States to broker a new truce between Israel and Hamas.

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

Egypt and Turkey cut ties in 2013 after al-Sisi, then Egypt’s defense minister, ousted president Mohammed Morsi, an ally of Turkey and part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

At the time, Erdogan said he would never speak to “anyone” like al-Sisi, who in 2014 became president of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

But relations have thawed since 2021, when a Turkish delegation visited Egypt to discuss normalization.

By last July, Cairo and Ankara had appointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals for the first time in a decade.

In November 2022, Erdogan and al-Sisi shook hands in Qatar in what the Egyptian presidency heralded as a new beginning for their relations.

The two leaders have since met in several other countries, including Saudi Arabia in November and at the G20 summit in India in September.

Despite the long freeze in relations, trade between the two continued. According to Egyptian central bank figures, Turkey is Egypt’s fifth largest trade partner.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said an agreement had been finalized to provide drones to Egypt.

Erdogan said his meetings in Egypt, as well as the United Arab Emirates, would “look at what more can be done for our brothers in Gaza.”

“As Turkey, we continue to make every effort to stop the bloodshed,” he told a news conference.

Erdogan has emerged as one of the Muslim world’s harshest critics of Israel for its bombardment and ground offensive in the Palestinian territory, which have killed at least 28,576 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Istanbul served as a base for Hamas political leaders before the October 7 attack. The NATO member asked the Hamas chiefs to leave after some were captured on video celebrating the unprecedented attack.

Hamas’s attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Ankara in November recalled its ambassador to Israel, and has maintained intermittent communication with the Hamas leadership, who see Turkey as a potential ally in ceasefire negotiations.

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