CAIRO -- Turkey’s chief diplomat was in Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian officials as the regional powers seek to mend their frayed ties after years of tension.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, arrived in the Egyptian capital early Saturday. He was the highest ranking Turkish official to visit the Arab World’s most populous nation in over a decade.
Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the Egyptian military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi amid mass protest against his divisive one year of rule. Morsi hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood group, supported by Turkey. Egypt has designated the group a terrorist organization.
Cavusoglu met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry for talks on “various aspects" of bilateral relations, said Ahmed Abu Zaid, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry.
Shoukry said the two sides have found common ground to relaunch political and economic relations to reach “conclusions in the interests of the two countries.”
“The talks were in-depth, transparent, and forthright,” he told a televised joint news conference. “We certainly look forward. We look at everything that can benefit the two countries.”
Cavusoglu spoke about making up for time lost since ambassador-level relations ended in late 2013.
“There is a huge level of untapped potential but unfortunately we have lost those nine years and in order to close this nine-year gap we have to work even harder,” he said.
The Turkish minister added that ties had been eroded “due to the lack of dialogue and misunderstandings.”
Referring to the appointment of ambassadors, Cavusoglu said he was certain diplomatic links would return to “the highest level possible.” He also suggested the possibility of an official meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt after Turkey’s May elections.
Turkey has abandoned its critical approach toward the Egyptian leader, who as defense minister led the military's overthrow of Morsi in 2013. Erdogan and el-Sissi were photographed shaking hands in November during the World Cup in Qatar, as part of concerted efforts to mend ties.
The two countries have collided in other areas, including Libya, where they back opposing sides. Such confrontations nearly led to a direct clash between the two U.S. allies in 2020 at the height of an attack on the Libyan capital by east-based commander Khalifa Hifter, who is backed by Egypt.
Egypt, Greece and some other European countries were also angered by a 2019 deal between Turkey and one of Libya's rival governments that sought to boost Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt and Greece responded by signing a separate deal to delineate their maritime boundaries, a deal which Ankara rejected.
Saturday's high-level visit was the first to Cairo by a Turkish chief diplomat since former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's official visit to the Egyptian capital in 2012 to attend a Syrian opposition conference held by the Arab League.
Shoukry and Cavusoglu met last month when the Egyptian foreign minister visited quake-hit Turkey and Syria to show solidarity with the two nations.
Associated Press writer Andrew Wilks contributed from Ankara, Turkey.