Turkey’s Erdogan to discuss Gaza war with Sissi in 1st Egypt visit since 2012

Hamas delegation also expected in Cairo, day after Israeli team held talks there on potential hostage deal; relations between Egypt and Turkey are thawing after ties cut in 2013

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, is welcomed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi prior their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 14, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

CAIRO, Egypt — 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 el-Sissi and the two men exchanged a handshake on the tarmac, live footage of his arrival showed.

Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel’s conduct in its war against the Hamas terror group in the wake of the October 7 onslaught, said Monday that he would discuss with Sissi efforts to halt the fighting.

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

An Israeli delegation was in Cairo on Tuesday for talks involving the US, Egypt, and Qatar, while a Hamas delegation was expected later Wednesday.

Egypt and Turkey cut ties in 2013 after Sissi, then Egypt’s defense minister, ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Turkey and part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi (R) meeting with CIA director William Burns (C-L) at Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo, on February 13, 2024. (AFP)

At the time, Erdogan said he would never speak to “anyone” like Sissi, 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.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi during their meeting at Al-Ittihadiya palace in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 14, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

In November 2022, Erdogan and Sissi 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.

While the two regional powers have often been at odds — including supporting rival governments in Libya — their interests are aligned on two major conflicts: Sudan and Gaza.

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

People ride in a cart pulled by a tractor past the rubble of a destroyed building and a mosque minaret in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 14, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

“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 offensive, launched after Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in a murderous rampage in southern Israel.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 28,500 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 10,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

The home of Yuval Salomon, killed in Kibbutz Kfar Azza, southern Israel, near the Gaza border, on Feb. 13, 2024, the site of a cross-border onslaught by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

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

However, Ankara has maintained intermittent communication with the Hamas leadership, who see Turkey as a potential ally in negotiations for a potential ceasefire and hostage deal.

In December, Erdogan claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was worse than Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Following the outbreak of war, Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey after Erdogan accused Israel of committing war crimes. Turkey later also recalled its ambassador from Israel.

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