Turkey awarded citizenship to hundreds of exiled Egyptians before talks

The Turkish government granted citizenships to nearly 700 Egyptians ahead of a possible diplomatic re-engagement between the two countries, the Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been deeply fractured since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power in a 2013 military coup and began a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had forged close ties with the ousted Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi, frequently condemned Sisi as a dictator and Turkey became a safe haven for Egyptian exiles opposed to the government in Cairo.

But after years of enmity, Turkey is seeking to reset relations with Egypt. Top Turkish officials including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın are signalling efforts to normalise ties.

Six months ago, a group of Egyptians, calling themselves "the Egypt Committee" submitted a list of people who had been living in exile since the military coup in Egypt in 2013 to Turkish officials. The government decided to approve the requests after concluding that the applicants were “highly skilled and well-educated professionals”, Middle East Eye said, citing Turkish sources familiar with the issue.

"The government issued the citizenships by using its exceptional powers to do so," one of the Turkish sources told the news website. They were not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the source said. Thousands of Egyptians have been awarded Turkish citizenship based on their investments or due to their merits, since 2013, a second source said.

"This is hardly exceptional," the second source said.

The granting of citizenship to exiled Egyptians shows that the extradition of Egyptians back to Sisi’s rule is not going to be a part of a possible deal to restore ties, the news website said.

"People should know that Turkey wouldn’t hand any human to any country that has capital punishment and lacks a just and transparent judiciary," the Middle East Eye said, citing Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdoğan.