Sisi welcomes Erdogan for his first visit to Egypt in

Sisi welcomes Erdogan for his first visit to Egypt in more than 10 years

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in Cairo on Wednesday that they were turning “a new page” in their relations after more than a decade of estrangement.

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When Mr. Sissi, then the army chief, overthrew Islamist Mohamed Morsi, a major ally of Mr. Erdogan, in 2013, the latter vowed that he would “never” speak to “anyone like” him.

A decade later, the Turkish leader was greeted with honors by his Egyptian counterpart as he landed at Cairo airport.

The two men then signed several agreements in which they both advocated for “a new level of relations,” an increase in trade “to $15 billion a year within a few years,” and diplomatic cooperation in the Middle East and Africa.

Although the dispute has long been in flames – Egypt and Turkey support two rival governments in Libya and have only recently reconciled on the Sudan issue – trade relations remain in good shape: Ankara is Cairo's fifth trading partner.

“Egypt is currently Turkey’s largest trading partner in Africa,” Sissi said on Wednesday.

“Occupation and Massacre”

On Monday, Mr. Erdogan said he would travel to the United Arab Emirates and then Egypt to “see what more can be done for our brothers in Gaza,” a small Palestinian territory on the border with Egypt that has been in crisis since the attack was relentlessly shelled by Israel. unprecedented killing by Hamas on October 7th in the south of the country.

Mr. Erdogan added that Ankara was “doing everything to stop the bloodshed” while more than 28,000 Palestinians were killed, the vast majority civilians, according to the Hamas government, in the offensive launched by Israel in retaliation in the Gaza Strip the attack.

The Oct. 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,160 people on the Israeli side, most of them civilians killed that day, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

Israel says there are still 130 hostages in Gaza, 29 of whom are believed to have died, out of around 250 people kidnapped on October 7. A week-long ceasefire in late November allowed for the release of 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Mr. Erdogan on Wednesday condemned “the occupation policies and massacres of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu,” the Israeli prime minister said.

Referring to Rafah, the southern Gaza town against which the Israeli army is threatening an offensive, Mr. Erdogan called on the international community “not to allow such madness to happen, which will lead to genocide.”

Humanitarian aid

Mr. Sissi denounced “Israel’s obstacles that make humanitarian aid slow to reach Gaza.”

Egypt has Gaza's only opening to the world that is not controlled by Israel: the Rafah crossing. All other border crossings are hermetically sealed by Israel.

When Rafah connects the Palestinian and Egyptian territories, the Israelis demand that all trucks passing there be searched, slowing the delivery of aid.

Mr. Erdogan, who called Israel a “terrorist state” and Hamas a “group of liberators,” recalled his ambassador in Tel Aviv in early November, deeming it impossible to “break completely with Israel.”

Before October 7, several Hamas political leaders were stationed in Istanbul. Since then they have been quietly asked to leave.

From the start of the conflict in Gaza, Mr. Erdogan offered to mediate, but discussions on ceasefires have so far been led by Qatar and Egypt.

On Tuesday, the directors of the American and Israeli intelligence agencies, the Qatari prime minister and Egyptian leaders discussed ways to “work toward a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip” in Cairo.

These talks, which also included a new release of hostages, were “positive” and were expected to last until Friday, television close to Egyptian intelligence reported.