Erdogan, el-Sisi demand Israel halt looming offensive on Rafah

Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo as relations warm following years of tensions.

Video Duration 16 minutes 56 seconds 16:56Published On 14 Feb 202414 Feb 2024

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi leader have called for a halt to Israel’s looming offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza as the leaders held bilateral talks in Cairo.

Erdogan’s visit to Egypt on Wednesday comes as ties between Ankara and Cairo are back on track after years of tensions and frosty relations.

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The Turkish leader arrived in the Egyptian capital, his first visit to Cairo in over a decade, after visiting the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, where he met UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Erdogan met el-Sisi at Cairo’s Ittihadiya palace, according to Egyptian state media. Their talks focused on bilateral relations and regional challenges, especially efforts to stop the war in Gaza, el-Sisi later said at a joint news conference.

“We agreed on the need for an immediate ceasefire [in Gaza] and the need to achieve calm in the West Bank” to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with the ultimate goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state, el-Sisi said.

Erdogan said Turkey was determined to step up talks with Egypt at all levels to establish peace and stability in the region.

“We will continue to cooperate and stand in solidarity with our Egyptian brothers to put an end to the bloodshed in Gaza,” he said.

Egypt and Turkey fell out after the Egyptian military in 2013 removed President Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, amid mass protests against his government.

Over the past few years, Ankara abandoned its criticism of el-Sisi’s government as it tried to repair frayed ties with Egypt and other regional powers. In November 2022, Erdogan and el-Sisi were photographed shaking hands during the World Cup in Qatar.

The war in Gaza has reached a critical point, with an impending Israeli offensive on the city of Rafah, along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt, where some 1.4 million people – more than half the territory’s population – are crammed into tent camps and overflowing apartments and shelters.

Speaking at the news conference with el-Sisi, Erdogan urged Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid a ground offensive in Rafah and accused the Israeli government of committing “massacres” in Gaza.

“Efforts to depopulate Gaza are not acceptable,” he said.

Egypt is concerned that a ground assault on Rafah would push hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians across the border and into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. It has threatened to suspend the country’s decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt, together with Qatar and the United States, a key Israel ally, has been working to try and broker a ceasefire and the return of the remaining 130 captives held by Hamas, around a quarter of whom Israel believes to be dead. The negotiators held talks in Cairo on Tuesday but there were no signs of a breakthrough.

Erdogan also said that Turkey was ready to cooperate with Egypt to rebuild Gaza, pledging to boost trade with Egypt to $15bn in the short term.

Israel launched its war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas fighters carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing at least 1,139 people and seizing around 250 others as hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel responded with a devastating bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, killing more than 28,500 people, according to Palestinian authorities. The Israeli assault has reduced much of the besieged territory to rubble and displaced more than 80 percent of the population, according to aid agencies.

Source: News Agencies