02 March, 2015

Saudis have concerns about Egyptian foreign policies Bilal Al-Khalidi

Image from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, in Riyadh todayAs Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi concluded his first official visit to Saudi Arabia since King Salman Abd Al-Aziz came to the throne, arguments about the results of the visit continued. Some commentators have focused on the fact that it only lasted a few hours and newspapers close to the coup authorities in Cairo have restricted their coverage of the visit to routine official communiques. They spoke about bilateral relations without discussing the tangible results of the visit and its impact on the current reality of life in Egypt.

A Gulf source told Arabi 21 that Riyadh raised the issue of the fate of the aid given by the Gulf States to Egypt since the 2013 coup. This was prompted by the leaked tapes in which Al-Sisi spoke about $30 billion of such aid going straight to the army immediately prior to the presidential election. Egypt's Al-Watan newspaper appeared to confirm this topic of discussion in its quotes attributed to the president. "What has been repeated by the enemies of the Gulf and Egypt about the use of the Gulf aid for the benefit of the military establishment is not precise," said Al-Sisi. "It is an attempt to say that they [the military establishment] are not helping the poor but only the army."

According to the anonymous source, Saudi Arabia wants to know where the aid has been spent, not least because of the lack of any real improvement in the economic conditions of the average Egyptian. Most are still suffering in desperate circumstances despite all the aid given to Cairo from the Gulf.

Riyadh is also increasingly concerned about certain aspects of Egyptian foreign policy, which the new Saudi government regard as detrimental to the security of the Gulf. In an interview with the London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Sisi said that Egypt's national security is linked very closely to that of the Gulf. However, the same source told Arabi 21 said that such statements, which have been repeated continuously since the coup, do not match Egyptian policies on the ground.

The Sisi regime has been making moves, for example, to bring Bashar Al-Assad in from the cold as part of the solution in Syria. However, Saudi Arabia believes that Assad has no place in the Syria of the future. Iraq also represents an area of major disagreement between Riyadh and Cairo. This has been caused by Al-Sisi opening up to the Iraq government without much attention to its sectarian policies that are denounced and rejected by Saudi Arabia.

Arabi 21 was also told that Riyadh is not pleased with Al-Sisi's hesitant position on the Houthis in Yemen. This follows visits made to Cairo by Houthi officials and the announcement made by Hussein Al-Alawi, Head of the Houthi Foreign Political Relations Department, that a high level delegation will visit Egypt in the next few days.

With regard to the future of Turkey-Egypt relations, the Gulf source told Arabi 21 that he ruled out the possibility of any progress in the near future. He pointed out that any progress in the relationship is dependent upon a change in Egypt's policy towards its domestic opposition and the Gaza Strip.

Last week, a number of Egyptian newspapers close to the regime published reports about Saudi mediation to repair the damage in relations between Cairo and Ankara. Al-Tahrir andAl-Watan claimed that mediation will take place between Turkey's President Erdogan and Al-Sisi. This was denied by Turkish sources and the president himself.

The conclusion of Al-Sisi's brief visit to Saudi Arabia without any official hints about a reconciliation effort between Egypt and Turkey confirms that Ankara is not ready to take such a step. Egypt is keen to put an end to the activities of exiled political and media groups in Turkey opposed to the coup regime; Turkey has become the most important country as a base for anti-coup Egyptians since Gulf Cooperation Council agreements which restrict their freedom to operate in Qatar.

Middle East Monitor

No comments: