Egypt and Turkey have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, with both nations being regional rivals and facing off on multiple fronts. Their leaders have exchanged verbal attacks in speeches, and a rapprochement between the two nations would have been deemed unimaginable just a few years ago.

However, the situation has changed in recent times, and the two nations have initiated diplomatic talks at the ministerial level, which is a significant step towards normalizing their bilateral relations. In less than a month, both nations have held two talks at the foreign minister level, indicating a growing willingness to work towards a better relationship.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit to Cairo earlier this month was a significant development, as it was the first time that a Turkish foreign minister visited Egypt since bilateral relations were severed around a decade ago. During the visit, Cavusoglu held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

Shoukry and Cavusoglu have expressed a willingness to restore diplomatic ties to the ambassadorial level at an appropriate time. They have also stated that the presidents of both countries have the political will to normalize bilateral relations. The Turkish foreign minister added that the two sides had agreed to maximize their diplomatic relations and had evaluated what steps they would take next.

This development comes after Shoukry’s landmark visit to Turkey in February, where he expressed his condolences and support after twin earthquakes killed over 40,000 people. The recent diplomatic talks between Egypt and Turkey are a positive sign of the two nations’ growing willingness to work towards a more cooperative relationship. It remains to be seen what the future holds for their rapprochement, but the talks are a step in the right direction.

The political situation between Egypt and Turkey has been tense since 2013 when diplomatic relations were severed. This was in response to the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi by current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is also responsible for leading the country since then. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the oldest political Islamist group in the Arab world. He was the first democratically elected president of Egypt and had the support of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan condemned the coup at the time, calling it “damaging, inhuman, and against the people, national will, and democracy.” Turkey has since provided refuge for Egyptian dissidents, many of whom are Muslim Brotherhood leaders that the Egyptian government considers to be terrorists. Turkey has also allowed these dissidents to run satellite television channels that speak openly against the current Egyptian president.

After the coup, two regional powers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who considered the Muslim Brotherhood a danger to their monarchies, backed el-Sisi and criticized Turkey for supporting the organization. This has further complicated the already strained relations between the two countries.

Another factor that has contributed to the division between Egypt and Turkey is Turkey’s support for Qatar. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran. Turkey, on the other hand, chose to back its regional ally Qatar. This move was not well-received by the four Arab countries who imposed a blockade on Qatar, including a sea, land, and air blockade.

The Gulf crisis, which lasted more than three years, finally came to an end in January 2021 after the blockading countries signed agreements with Qatar, lifted the blockade, and normalized relations. Despite this, tensions between Egypt and Turkey have yet to be resolved.

The recent diplomatic rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt has been a slow and cautious process that has taken several years. The breakdown of diplomatic ties between the two countries occurred in 2013, after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, had the support of Turkey’s President Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan condemned the coup and provided refuge for Egyptian dissidents, many of whom were Muslim Brotherhood leaders who Cairo considered “terrorists”.

In the aftermath of the coup, regional powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their monarchies, backed el-Sisi and criticized Turkey for its support of the organization. This created a clear division in the region, with Turkey and Qatar on one side and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE on the other.

However, the recent resolution of the Gulf crisis and the restoration of ties between Doha and its Gulf neighbors, as well as Egypt, has created a catalyst for Turkey to follow a similar path. Turkish foreign policy analyst Semih Idiz believes that Turkey would have been isolated if it did not change its regional policy, so the government began fixing its relations with rival powers in the region with the help of Qatar.

One of the main factors in easing tensions between Egypt and Turkey has been Turkey’s policy change towards the Muslim Brotherhood. After the removal of Morsi from power, Turkey used a harsh non-diplomatic rhetoric against the new government in Egypt, which led to high tensions between the two countries. Ankara also openly backed the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2010s, which is not the case today. Turkey has even limited the activities of the group’s members within its borders, which has been received positively in Cairo.

The rapprochement has been slow and cautious, with delegations from Ankara and Cairo meeting multiple times for exploratory talks in the months after the resolution of the Gulf crisis. Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati’s attendance at the annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank in Cairo in June 2022 marked the first ministerial visit to Egypt in about nine years. This was followed by a handshake between Erdogan and el-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup in Qatar in November 2022, a first between the two leaders.

Despite these positive steps, the rapprochement has not yet resulted in a meeting between the two presidents. According to Semih Idiz, Egypt seems to be waiting for the result of the elections in Turkey before making the next move. Nevertheless, the fact that the two countries are engaging in exploratory talks and have taken steps towards restoring ties is a positive development that could lead to greater stability in the region.

The relationship between Turkey and Egypt has been tense in recent years due to several conflicts, including disagreements over the conflict in Libya and disputes over the exclusive economic zone and hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean. Despite the political will expressed by both sides to improve ties, there are still significant disagreements that need to be addressed before cooperation can occur.

One of the main sources of tension between Turkey and Egypt has been their involvement in the Libyan conflict. In November 2019, Turkey signed a military cooperation agreement with the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, as well as a maritime demarcation agreement that established an exclusive economic zone. Egypt, along with Russia and the UAE, supported the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, and opposed Turkish military intervention on the side of the GNA. Other countries, including Cyprus, France, and Greece, have also contested the GNA’s authority to enter into such agreements.

The dispute over the Libyan conflict has eased somewhat in recent years, according to Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat. He suggests that this is because Turkey has been engaging with a wider range of actors in Libya beyond the GNA, which makes it easier for the two sides to find common ground. However, there are still significant disagreements over the exclusive economic zone and hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it remains unclear if and how these disputes will be resolved.

Egypt and Greece have rejected the 2019 Turkey-GNA maritime deal and have signed a separate agreement to determine their maritime boundaries, which Turkey has rebuffed. Furthermore, Egypt has an exclusive economic zone agreement with the Republic of Cyprus, while Turkey has signed a similar agreement with the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state only recognized by Turkey.

Although there have been positive developments in the relationship between Turkey and Egypt, such as the exchange of high-level visits and exploratory talks, there are still lingering issues that need to be resolved before substantive cooperation can occur. It remains to be seen whether the two sides can bridge their differences and move towards a more cooperative relationship in the future.