Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, recently visited Cairo and made a landmark visit, announcing that they have reached an agreement to upgrade diplomatic relations with Egypt. During his visit, he met with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, and they discussed bilateral relations, regional issues, and international matters. In addition, they evaluated the steps that need to be taken for the next process, and Çavuşoğlu invited Shoukry to Ankara. Çavuşoğlu is the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Egypt in 11 years.

The two ministers discussed several issues, including appointing ambassadors, which was previously planned that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would mutually decide. Çavuşoğlu stated that they were expecting the highest level of the announcement, and if the meeting is delayed after the elections in Turkey, they will consult again. However, he confirmed that they had already initiated the process.

Çavuşoğlu revealed that during Shoukry’s visit to Turkey after the February 6th earthquakes in the country, they discussed ways to develop bilateral relations and “discussed existing matters, issues to overcome.” They also discussed regional issues and held a meeting between delegations, where they touched on all matters, including energy, shipping, transportation, companies, investments, and topics related to energy, logistics, education, and culture.

The Turkish Minister further stated that the Egyptian side wants Turkish companies to increase their investments in Egypt, and the bilateral trade volume currently stands at nearly $10 billion. On liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, the Turkish minister said that the balance is in Egypt’s favor, and Turkey does not complain about it. He added that they want to make a long-term LNG agreement, and Egyptian gas can be exported to third countries via Turkey.

During their discussions, the Turkish side proposed to establish a Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) mechanism between the two countries, as the most recent meeting was held in 1996. Çavuşoğlu added that they have “openly and clearly” exchanged views on regional matters. Turkey suggested that it could play a mediator’s role in the bilateral, regional dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over an Ethiopian dam that could curtail Egypt’s share of the Nile River’s waters, as it has good ties with both Ethiopia and Sudan.

“We discussed Libya in a little more detail. We agree we are not rivals in Libya, and we should work together for the stability of Libya. We will intensify our consultations on this issue as well,” he noted. Turkey’s deal with Libya over maritime authority areas was not against Egypt’s interests. He said Egypt was initially disturbed by Turkey’s presence in the region, but they affirmed that their presence did not pose a threat to Egypt. Çavuşoğlu also stressed that Turkey would not press upon Egypt and Israel to cut off ties with other countries such as Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in Cyprus, two countries at odds with Ankara but enjoy good ties with Israel and Egypt.

On ties with Libya, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was in touch with both sides of the political divide in Libya. “We see Libya as a whole, but it does not alter the fact that we only recognize the legitimate government in Libya. The most legitimate (foreign) presence in Libya is Turkey’s military presence,” he added.

Regarding the postponed quadrilateral talks between Turkey, Syria, Russia, and Iran, Çavuşoğlu said that Russia, the host, offered postponement citing that they could not complete their preparations for discussions. “The Bashar Assad regime was there; they may on the issue of Syria, the Turkish foreign minister expressed his disappointment with the progress in the political process in Syria. “We are not happy with the Astana process. We do not see any progress on the political process. We cannot just focus on the ceasefire, which is only temporary,” he said, referring to the talks held in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Turkey, Russia, and Iran to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

He also noted that Turkey is hosting over 4 million Syrian refugees and has been actively working to provide humanitarian aid and support to the Syrian people. “We are working to provide education, health, and job opportunities for Syrian refugees in Turkey. But we also want to see a political solution in Syria so that the refugees can return to their homes,” he said.

In conclusion, the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Egypt was significant in terms of improving bilateral relations between the two countries, which have been strained since the 2013 military coup in Egypt. The talks focused on various issues, including trade, energy, regional conflicts, and the Syrian conflict. While there were some positive outcomes, such as the agreement to upgrade diplomatic relations, there were also some issues where both sides had differing views. Nevertheless, the fact that the two foreign ministers engaged in a dialogue is a positive step towards improving relations between Turkey and Egypt.