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Egypt urges Turkey to withdraw from Syria

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Egypt’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Turkey to withdraw troops from Syria, underscoring lingering tensions despite recent efforts to mend ties, Agence France-Presse reported.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Ankara for his third talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in two months.

The spurt in diplomatic contacts comes with Turkey — mired in an economic crisis one month before key elections — seeking to normalize relations with a host of Arab countries with which it formed rivalries in the past decade.

Shoukry reaffirmed Cairo’s desire to continue improving relations, which broke down following the ousting of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Turkey, in 2013.

But he also brought up disagreements over Syria, where Turkey has troops and supports rebel fighters in the country’s civil war.

“I said that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be preserved. And I said that foreign powers should be withdrawn from Syrian territory,” Shoukry told a joint media appearance after the talks.

Turkey’s military presence in northwestern Syria is also complicating its efforts to set up a peace-building summit with President Bashar al-Assad.

Egypt and other Arab governments are amplifying their engagements with Damascus, a push that has drawn consternation from Washington.

Shoukry this month received Syria’s foreign minister in Cairo for the first time since the civil war’s start more than a decade ago.

But Assad has made talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — a recent goal of Ankara — conditional on Turkey withdrawing its troops.

Çavuşoğlu reaffirmed Turkey’s longstanding position that its military presence was needed to fight “terrorism.”

“We must make sure that there is no threat to us from there,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Besides backing rebel forces, Turkey has also staged a series of military incursion into Syria, primarily to fight Kurdish groups it views as “terrorists.”

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