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    ‘Turkey, Egypt in diplomatic-level contacts’

    After years of disrupted ties, Turkey and Egypt have restarted diplomatic-level contacts, according to the Turkish foreign minister.

    “We have contacts at both the level of intelligence and foreign ministries with Egypt. Diplomatic-level contacts have started,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency and TRT in a joint interview late Thursday.

    Noting that neither side put forth preconditions, Cavusoglu said since ties were derailed back in 2013, they cannot be mended quickly or easily.

    He said a lack of trust is also normal in such situations and may exist for both parties.

    “For this reason, negotiations take place and continue under a certain strategy, a roadmap,” Cavusoglu said.

    He said that there used to be occasional talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry when they met at international meetings, including when they met in New York two years ago.

    Since the ties were disrupted in 2013, there are no preconditions, but contacts are being held step by step, he said.

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    Afghan peace process

    On the US proposal that the Turkish government hosts a senior-level meeting between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban in the coming weeks to finalize a peace deal, Cavusoglu said Turkey had been involved in the process since the beginning.

    “We were one of the few countries invited to this signing ceremony, and we are one of the most important actors in Afghanistan,” he said.

    Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said the US intends to ask the UN to convene foreign ministers and envoys of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US to discuss how to promote peace in Afghanistan.

    Turkey is trusted by both parties in the talks, Cavusoglu said, and added: “Both the Taliban and the negotiation delegation, meaning the government side, had asked us to host such a meeting before.”

    He cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meetings with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.

    Cavusoglu said he also met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy chief and leader of its delegation, in Qatar last year after the signing of a peace deal with the US.

    He stressed that Turkey would also appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan to contribute to the process.

    Cavusoglu added that the meeting in the Turkish capital Ankara will not be an alternative to the Qatar process but a supporting one.

    “We will do this in coordination with our sister nation Qatar,” he said, adding that the aim is to make the negotiation continue in a result-oriented manner.

    Cavusoglu said he believes that Turkey will contribute significantly to the meeting, which is planned to be held in Istanbul in April.

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    Trilateral meeting in Qatar

    On Thursday’s trilateral meeting on the Syria issue between Turkey, Russia, and Qatar, Cavusoglu said Doha wanted to take a more concrete step especially on the humanitarian situation on the ground.

    “At Qatar’s initiative, we first held a meeting at the level of senior officials. Then we decided to hold that meeting at the ministerial level and we held this meeting,” he said.

    Saying that steps will be taken on the delivery of humanitarian aid and education, Cavusoglu said that their aim is to bring stability, peace, and a political solution to all of Syria.

    “This work is not an alternative to the Geneva process or the Astana [peace] process involving Iran or other processes, meetings in other formats but rather complementary to them,” he said, adding that the three countries have things to do on the ground and they convened for that purpose.

    Stating that they have agreed to continue the new trilateral format, he said it will also continue at the level of senior officials.

    The next meeting will be held in Turkey, according to Cavusoglu.

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    Turkey can mend ties with Saudi Arabia, UAE

    Touching on new processes between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar, Cavusoglu said such process would benefit relations with Turkey as well.

    “Recently, we see positive messages from Abu Dhabi. We see that the negative campaigns against Turkey have decreased,” he said, adding that Ankara already did not have any problems with the UAE but it had a negative approach towards Turkey.

    Saying that Ankara also has no bilateral problems with Riyadh, Cavusoglu said that after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in fall 2018, Saudi Arabia made the case into a bilateral problem.

    “Actually this was not a bilateral issue. It was a search for justice for the deceased and we said, ‘Let the perpetrators of the murder face justice and let justice be served’,” he explained.

    “We have never accused the Saudi administration,” he said.

    Citing his “fruitful” meeting last November with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan in Niger, Cavusoglu said: “We agreed to continue dialogue.”

    “For us, there’s no reason for not mending our ties with Saudi Arabia. If they take a positive step, we will do so as well. The same goes for the UAE,” he stressed.

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