Saudi-sponsored summit to mend ties between Egypt and Qatar

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi meets with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz hold a meeting in Cairo on June 21, 2014. Al-Akhbar
Published Monday, December 22, 2014
On the surface, it appears that the discord between Cairo and Doha is over. The Egyptian president will stop in Riyadh on his way back from China for a Saudi-sponsored meeting with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. It will be the first official meeting between the two men since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime more than 18 months ago strained Egyptian-Qatari relations, leading to a “media and financial war.”
Cairo – Although there are some outstanding issues still under negotiation between Egypt and Qatar, the dispute between the two countries is about to be over, at least on the political level. This is the result of concerted efforts by Major General Abbas Kamel, director of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office and Khaled al-Tuwaijri, president of the Saudi royal court.
Presidential sources told Al-Akhbar that the tripartite meeting between Sisi, Tuwaijri and the Qatari emir’s special envoy, Mohammed bin Abdel Rahman, held Saturday evening was part of the Saudi initiative launched by King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz to reconcile the two countries after Qatar’s opposition to the “June 30 Revolution” that toppled Mohammed Mursi – which Doha described as a coup – in addition to hosting and protecting Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporting them through its media.
The same sources said that Major-General Kamel traveled last week to Riyadh where he met Qatari officials to complete the reconciliation, which led to toning down Al Jazeera’s escalatory language and stopping Qatari interference in internal Egyptian affairs by supporting and funding Muslim Brotherhood leaders residing in the Gulf emirate. In addition, there was talk of the need for Qatar to have the same position towards Egypt as the rest of the Gulf states.
At the meeting, Egyptians asked for speeding up the process of changing the Qatari media rhetoric towards their country, especially by Al Jazeera International, which Cairo accused of distorting Egypt’s image and discouraging tourists from visiting, thus leading to further deterioration of the local economy. There will also be a gradual change in the policy of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Al Jazeera Live Egypt), specifically stopping the anti-Sisi messages that appear on their news ticker.

There will also be a gradual change in the policy of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Al Jazeera Live Egypt), specifically stopping the anti-Sisi messages that appear on their news ticker.

 On the economic front, the dialogue focused on “friendly negotiations” to solve outstanding issues between the two sides concerning companies and ministries without resorting to international adjudication. The parties did not bring up the half a billion dollars owed to Qatar’s Central Bank out of the $2.5 billion Qatar deposited in Egypt when ousted President Mohammed Mursi was still in office. The remaining amount will be paid in February after Doha received a $2 billion payment last month.
Before convening the summit, Egypt put conditions having to do with its border [with Libya]. The initiative calls on Doha to stop supporting Libyan opposition forces with money and weapon deals because the continuation of the chaos in Libya threatens Egypt’s security and stability and constitutes a breach of Egyptian national security, as highlighted by security officials who attended the meeting in Riyadh.
In return, Egyptians will offer several concessions, including disregarding what Cairo described as “Qatari violations of the Saudi initiative in the past two weeks.” Although decision-making circles in Egypt had reservations about a meeting between Sisi and the Qatari envoy, the Egyptian president insisted on the meeting not only as a goodwill gesture from Egypt towards Qatar and as a sign of appreciation for the Saudi initiative but also to ensure that Egypt is not seen as throwing a wrench in the works.
The Sisi-Tamim summit was supposed to take place Sunday evening and arrangements were made at the highest levels to make it happen. However, sources said the meeting was postponed until Sisi returns from a visit to China that he begins on Monday. The two men are expected to meet in Riyadh on Thursday when Sisi returns from Beijing “if the Qatari side continues to fully honor its commitments.”
In light of the Turkish escalation with the announcement of holding Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood parliament sessions in Turkey, it was agreed that the Qatari-Turkish relations are to be separate from the Egyptian side. Doha is to be concerned only with its interests on the condition that it would support any Egyptian position in international organizations irrespective of Turkey’s hostile policy towards Sisi. One of the outstanding issues that is still under negotiation is expelling the rest of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Qatar and implementing a law of mutual extradition of criminals and suspects. Again, convening the summit between Sisi and Tamim is subject to the latter’s adherence to his commitments.
The New York Times reported that, “Shaking hands and kissing foreheads, the monarchs of the Persian Gulf came together this month to declare that they had resolved an 18-month feud in order to unite against their twin enemies, Iran and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But the split is still festering.” At the beginning of a report published on Saturday, December 20, the US daily quoted a senior Egyptian official who said: “Nothing has changed – nothing, nothing.” The newspaper pointed out that ongoing tensions between Qatar and its neighbors raise questions about “the ability of the Gulf states to muster a coherent response to a storm of crises rocking the region.” The New York Times maintained that the basic dispute is over Qatar’s support of Islamists in the region, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in addition to Egypt consider a threat to the security of the Middle East. But the US daily said that government officials on both sides of the Gulf split acknowledge that “Qatar scarcely budged.”
A Qatari official who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity said that “the joint communiqué supporting Mr. Sisi’s road map was merely a ‘press release’ that carried little significance.” He added: “We will always support the population of Egypt,” while simultaneously stressing that Al Jazeera is “editorially independent,” that’s why other states “should not create political issues just because a channel is broadcasting what is happening.” The newspaper also pointed out that “although Qatar asked some Brotherhood members to leave Doha because of their political activities, only 10 or fewer have done so,” according to Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Qatari officials.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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