|Turkish officials have announced a long-projected visit to Egypt by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take place on Sept. 12, but refrained from clarifying whether he would subsequently actualize a controversial visit to Gaza.|
Erdoğan is expected to sign a military cooperation agreement with Egyptian officials as well as other agreements concerning bilateral economic ties during his visit to Egypt. He is scheduled to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Essam Sharaf, and the head of Egypt's Higher Military Council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, to discuss relations, while a boost between the countries regarding military cooperation is expected to come up on the agenda.
Meanwhile, Nabil Shaath, the special envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was in Ankara on Monday for talks with Turkish officials.
Erdoğan had initially voiced his intentions to visit Gaza following a visit to Egypt as early as July, while at the same time noting that he was not intending to allow space for tension in the face of the Israeli obstacles blocking entry into the Gaza Strip. Although Turkish officials announced that the prime minister would be visiting Egypt on Sept. 12, and might visit other places during his stay in the country, they neither denied nor confirmed plans for the Gaza visit that has claimed wide coverage in Turkish media.
Reports of a Gaza visit by the prime minister came to the fore in July when Erdoğan replied to reporters' questions regarding the trip, saying he had the desire to do it and Turkish officials were looking into the feasibility of such a visit. “If conditions allow, I am thinking of a Gaza visit,” Erdoğan said and acknowledged that the Turkish Foreign Ministry was working to that end.
The recent advance in Turkey's support for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza came against the backdrop of Israel's refusal to heed the country's calls for action regarding an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla and the Gaza blockade, which on Friday resulted in Turkey imposing a series of sanctions on Israel. Turkey also indicated on Friday that it would be taking the Gaza blockade to international courts to demand international attention to the controversial matter, which Turkey considers human rights abuse.
Entry into Gaza is provided through the Rafah border crossing in Egypt, which keeps the line under strict control in line with its cooperation with Israel on the issue. Erdoğan's projected Gaza visit also relies on Egypt's approval, in which case the Turkish prime minister will be the first state leader to enter Gaza through Rafah.
The stance Egypt will take on the projected entry also remained a mystery, but the country has been on rough grounds with Israel since Israeli soldiers killed a number of Egyptians, including security forces, close to their common border. Israeli officials called the assault an accident, but the deaths nevertheless provoked a diplomatic row between the strategic allies. Although Israel apologized for the casualties when Egypt threatened to sour relations, the incident left the decades-long peace treaty between the countries on shaky ground.
Erdoğan to visit Egypt amidst Israel-Turkey tension