Last week, the public agenda in Turkey had been busy with two main topics.
First topic was the potential reconciliation between Egypt and Turkey over their maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean. The countries have had sour relations since 2013.
The second topic was the vaccination efforts and the normalization process in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Reconciliation with Egypt over the Eastern Mediterranean
After many years of sour relations, Turkey and Egypt have started diplomatic-level contacts again, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“We have contacts at both the level of intelligence and foreign ministries with Egypt. Diplomatic-level contacts have started,” Cavusoglu told the media in an interview last Thursday.
Noting that neither side has put forth any preconditions, Cavusoglu said that ties cannot be mended too quickly or easily, since they were disrupted back in 2013.
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,” he said.
He said that there used to be occasional talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry when they met at international meetings.
The Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shukri said during the meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee in the House of Representatives, “There are statements to open dialogue channels with Turkey from the Turkish side, and we are keen on the close relationship between the Egyptian and Turkish peoples, but the political situation and positions of some Turkish politicians were negative, although they did not affect relations between the two peoples.”
Shukry continued: “If we find that Turkish policy, methodology and goals change to conform to Egyptian policies, and if Turkey returns to normal relations in the interest of the region, then it is possible to restore normal relations. But words alone are not enough, they must be accompanied by actions”.
Erdogan also confirmed reports of cooperation with Egypt in various areas after years of difficult ties.
“Our cooperation with Egypt in terms of intelligence, diplomacy and economy is already happening. There is no problem with that. It is not at the highest level, but close to a high level,” Erdogan said, adding that he hopes to strengthen relations further.
Saying that the people of Egypt and Turkey are inseparable, Erdogan said relations could grow stronger once intelligence, diplomatic, and political negotiations yield results.
Having already lost 11,500 square kilometers of its continental shelf in an agreement signed with the Southern Cyprus in 2003, Egypt also has given up about 15,000 square kilometers in an agreement with Greece last year.
Egypt could gain potentially 21,500 square kilometers of maritime area in the North if the country reaches an agreement with Turkey.
The current situation of pandemic and the normalization process
Turkey has completed a whole year with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the first case in Turkey was recorded on March 11th, and the first death occurred on March 15th 2020.
The total number of cases in the country has passed 2.87 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 29,489 with 13,378 new cases (852 symptomatic) and 68 fatalities as of Sunday.
A total of 2.7 million patients in the country won the battle against the virus, with 15,516 recoveries as of Sunday.
35.12 million coronavirus tests have been done in Turkey, and the latest figures show that the number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition now stands at 1,392.
Turkey has launched a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign in January, after having been implementing nighttime and weekend curfews since last December.
11.03 million people have been vaccinated across Turkey so far, 3.13 million of which already receiving second doses.
A gradual normalization from coronavirus restrictions has also begun as of March 1st.
“A second shipment may arrive from China. If we agree on that matter, we can purchase an additional 50 million doses from China,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
President also said that: “The fluctuating appearance of the COVID-19 strains, necessarily make it difficult for us to make decisions.”
He also said the country would continue to ease coronavirus restrictions but added the priority remains the “well-being of our citizens.”
On other vaccine purchases, Erdogan said Turkey’s agreements with China and Germany are ongoing, adding that there are ongoing talks with Russia towards an agreement.
On Thursday, the Istanbul governorship announced that it will be compulsory to show the coronavirus track codes (HES code) before entering most public spaces and all state buildings from March 15th onward.
President Erdogan has expressed his gratitude for healthcare workers on the occasion of March 14th, the National Medicine Day.
“I send greetings to you and your families with my most heartfelt feelings and congratulate you on Medicine Day. I am grateful to you and all your colleagues for your services for our nation and all of humanity,” Erdogan said in a letter marking the day.
Praising the efforts and sacrifice of healthcare staff during the fight against coronavirus, Erdogan stressed: “Our healthcare professionals, who are unable to go to their homes for weeks or hug their children and loved ones, have worked day and night to help our citizens regain their health as soon as possible.”
He said their sacrifice and efforts are very important in Turkey’s fight against COVID-19, which has set an example worldwide.
Turkey’s struggle against the virus is not over yet, Erdogan said, urging people to work together until the threat is completely eliminated.
Separately, in a message to healthcare workers, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that now the whole world has seen that it is a privilege to be a healthcare worker, especially a physician.
“But the responsibilities we undertake are just as heavy,” said Koca in a statement.
The Medicine Day ceremony was held online due to coronavirus this year, declared International Year of Health and Care Workers by the World Health Organization (WHO).