By Rabea Abu Zamel
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has called for stepped-up trade relations with Turkey, going on to hint that he may eventually pay a visit to Ankara.
In an interview aired Sunday evening on private Egyptian broadcaster ON TV, Shoukry voiced hope that bilateral relations might reach a level that “serves the interests of the peoples of both countries”.
“We are keen to maintain certain trade relationships because they benefit Egypt in terms of both attracting investment and creating employment,” Shoukry said in the interview.
“These relationships should be encouraged as long as they pose no threat to Egypt’s national security,” he added.
In July, Egypt announced that its exports to Turkey had risen in the first five months of 2017 by 52 percent, reaching some $837 million compared to $549 million during the same period last year.
According to Egypt’s Trade and Industry Ministry, the total volume of trade between Egypt and Turkey stood at $4.176 billion last year compared to $4.341 billion in 2015.
Turkey’s political relations with Egypt, by contrast, have remained rocky since mid-2013, when Mohamed Morsi -- Egypt's first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader -- was ousted in a bloody military coup.
Shoukry also stressed Cairo’s readiness to normalize its political relations with Turkey on condition that Ankara was prepared to reciprocate.
“In terms of political relations [with Turkey], Egypt has always stressed its willingness to take steps in this direction,” he said.
“But this decision must ultimately come from the Turkish government,” he added.
Egypt’s top diplomat also welcomed what he described as “a recent reduction in the amount of criticism” leveled at Egypt’s post-coup regime by the Turkish government.
“This is a good sign that suggests relations will gradually return to normal,” he asserted.
Commenting on Ankara’s current policies vis-à-vis Egypt, Shoukry said: “We don’t think these policies serve to strengthen [bilateral] relations; nor will they help us reach consensus on regional and international issues to our mutual benefit.”
“We are ready to maintain relations with all countries based on the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in the domestic affairs of others,” Shoukri said.
When asked about the possibility of his visiting Ankara -- or the possibility of a reciprocal visit to Egypt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- Shoukry said: “This is possible, of course. We appreciate and respect the Turkish people.”
“We cherish the strong relations we once enjoyed with Turkey,” he added. “We hope these relations will return to levels in line with the interests of our two peoples.”
Commenting last year on Egypt-Turkey relations, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was quoted as saying, “There is no hostility between the people of Egypt and Turkey.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim responded at the time by saying that Turkey had “no objection” to stepping up economic relations and hosting Egyptian officials -- despite Ankara’s continued rejection of Morsi’s ouster four years ago.