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Turkey’s Erdogan receives red-carpet reception in Egypt, calls Sisi 'brother'

Libya, the Gaza war and bilateral ties are set to top Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's meeting during the first such visit since 2012.
Erdogan is met by Sisi in Cairo

ANKARA — Egyptian-Turkish relations continued their positive turn on Wednesday when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a first visit to Cairo since 2012, praising his once nemesis Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and calling him “esteemed brother.”

The mood was clear in the optics and the agenda of the visit. Sisi welcomed the Turkish leader at a Cairo airport, departing from traditional diplomatic protocol.

A red-carpet welcome reception and ceremony at Al-Ittihadiya Palace followed.

At the press conference later, Erdogan hailed the new chapter.

“I believe that this visit will be a new turning point in our relations,” Erdogan said at the joint presser, flanked by Sisi.

The Egyptian leader echoed the message. “We can open a new page together between our countries in a way that enriches our bilateral relations and puts them on the right track,” Sisi said.

The two countries inked several cooperation deals including in tourism, culture and education on the sidelines of the summit. The two capitals fully restored their diplomatic ties by appointing mutual ambassadors in July after a decade-long hiatus.

Reiterating the countries’ previously set goal to raise their bilateral trade volume, which currently stands at $10 billion, to $15 “as soon as possible,” Erdogan went on, “Trade and economy have been the locomotive of our cooperation.”

Adding that the two countries shared “serious potential” in the defense industry, the Turkish leader said, “I believe that we will develop joint projects with Egypt through our cooperation in this field.” He did not elaborate further.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who joined Erdogan during the trip along with Defense Minister Yasar Guler and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, announced that his country would soon begin drone exports to Egypt.

Sisi said the two countries would also seek to “enhance joint investments and open new areas of cooperation.”

The two leaders also reached an agreement to elevate the strategic cooperation council mechanism between the two countries, Erdogan said.

“I told my esteemed brother that I was waiting to see him in Ankara at the earliest opportunity to hold our council meeting.”

United front on Gaza

Presenting a united front over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, both leaders reiterated calls for an immediate cease-fire.

“The humanitarian tragedy in the Palestinian territories topped our agenda. ... Our priority is to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible and to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza without any obstacles,” Erdogan said.

Sisi described Turkey and Egypt as “centers of gravity in the region in a way that contributes to achieving peace, establishing stability.”

Erdogan and Sisi also pledged to deepen contacts on files that caused previous tensions, including the Libyan civil war, in which the two capitals backed rival groups.

“We also stressed the need to strengthen consultations between the two countries on the Libyan file in order to help hold presidential and legislative elections and unify the country’s military establishment,” Sisi said.

Prior to a 2020 cease-fire, Ankara provided military support to the country’s Tripoli-based government against the Libyan National Army of eastern commander Khalifa Hifter, who is backed by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

‘Calm’ in Eastern Mediterranean

A controversial 2019 maritime delineation agreement between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government prompted Egypt and Greece to sign a counteragreement last year, raising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean over conflicting territorial claims between Ankara and Athens.

Hailing ongoing Turkish-Greek rapprochement that emerged after the devastating twin Feb. 6, 2023, earthquakes, Sisi said his country was “looking forward to building on the calm in the Eastern Mediterranean and to resolve the existing differences between the countries bordering the region … in a bid to make the most of the natural resources available there.”

Erdogan's one-day visit is the first Egyptian-Turkish leaders summit since 2012. Following the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government led by late President Mohammed Morsi — an ally of Turkey — the relationship between Cairo and Ankara was curtailed. Following Erdogan's reelection in June, the two countries fully restored their diplomatic ties in July. In November, Erdogan and Sisi met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India.

This is a breaking story and has been updated since its initial publication.