Turkey, Egypt delegations held meetings after leaders' handshake -sources

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, November 20, 2022. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via

ANKARA, Nov 28 (Reuters) - After years of tension, a handshake between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last week opened the door to a flurry of back-door diplomacy between intelligence officials, two sources told Reuters.

Intelligence delegations from the two sides met in Egypt at the weekend, said a regional source with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The second source, a senior Turkish official, said "significant" discussions had begun between them, and Turkey and Egypt are set to begin talks on military, political and commercial issues including energy projects.

Turkish government officials did not comment when asked about the Egypt meeting. Egypt's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu separately told reporters on Monday that Ankara and Cairo may restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors "in coming months".

Diplomatic ties have been strained since Sisi, then Egypt's army chief, led the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was strongly supported by Erdogan.

But Erdogan and Sisi shook hands on the sidelines of the World Cup in Qatar last week in what Cairo described as a new start in bilateral relations.

Separately, an Egyptian intelligence source said delegations in Cairo had discussed how to bring their points of view on common security issues closer. Those issues included Turkey-based media outlets associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and opposed to Egypt's government, the source said.

REGIONAL OUTREACH

Erdogan said at the weekend that he and Sisi spoke in Qatar for as much as 45 minutes, and that the process of building relations with Egypt will start with ministers of the two countries meeting and that the talks would develop from there.

The senior Turkish official said the countries "may enter into serious cooperation on regional issues, especially in Africa".

They will begin addressing commercial, military and political issues "within a short time," he added, pointing to Turkey's maritime agreement with Libya, energy projects, hydrocarbon exploration work and pipelines in the Mediterranean.

Ambassador appointments and contacts to bring Erdogan and Sisi together again will come "in the near future," with Turkey's approach mirroring its recent effort to rekindle ties with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, he added.

The two countries started consultations between senior foreign ministry officials last year amid a push by Turkey to ease tensions with Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

As part of this, Ankara asked Egyptian opposition TV channels operating in Turkey to moderate their criticism of Egypt, though Egyptian officials remained cautious on reconciliation.

Cairo has moved much more quickly to restore ties with Qatar following a regional diplomatic rift.

Additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo and Huseyin Hayatsever in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean

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