Egypt’s foreign minister on Thursday called on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Syria, a sign of lingering tensions despite efforts by Ankara and Cairo to restore ties.
“I said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria should be preserved. I also said that foreign forces should withdraw from the territory of Syria ,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Choukri said . visiting Ankara on Thursday , about his exchanges with his Turkish counterpart during a joint press conference.
“We are committed more than anyone” to the territorial integrity of Syria , replied Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu .
“Our priority is the fight against terrorism. (…) Our presence there is important to prevent threats against us, but also to block efforts to break up Syria,” he said . he adds.
Cairo and Ankara had been cold since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2013, after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi , who was close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan .
Turkey , however, has been seeking for months to normalize relations with several regional powers, including Egypt and Israel . But the Turkish military presence in Syria complicates these efforts.
Egypt and other Arab countries have recently renewed contact with Damascus, causing consternation in Washington. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has conditioned the dialogue with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria.
The head of Egyptian diplomacy had visited Turkey at the end of February after the devastating earthquake which killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
“We are opening new pages in our relations with Egypt ,” Mr. Cavusoglu then welcomed during a press conference with Mr. Choukri in the port of Mersin, in southern Turkey, where a ship of humanitarian aid provided by Egypt landed.
The Turkish and Egyptian presidents thus exchanged their first handshake at the end of November on the sidelines of the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.