Egypt and Saudi Arabia Mending Fences?

Ever since Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud assumed the throne from his late predecessor, relations between Egypt and the Kingdom saw a rise in tension as new Saudi priorities diverged from previously agreed upon mutual interests. Differences have surfaced over the stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood, Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria, relations with Turkey and Qatar, and confronting Islamists in Libya. But when the United States and the rest of the P5+1 signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, Saudi has reconsidered its position vis-a-vis Egypt.

Khaled Dawoud, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Weekly and the official spokesman of social-liberal Al-Dostour Party described in a recent article on EgyptSource these various tensions. He notes Saudi criticism of Egypt’s “obsession” with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s reluctance to join the Saudi call for Assad’s removal, the lack of Saudi support for Egypt’s pursuit of a UN Security Council resolution on Libya, and Egypt’s displeasure with warming Saudi relations between Turkey and Qatar, both outspoken critics of Egypt.

These apparent differences in policies between Egypt and Saudi were reportedly behind the delay in putting into effect the joint Arab military force that Sisi proposed during the Arab Summit in Sharm al-Sheikh in March, according to an Arab diplomat at the Arab League. Informed diplomatic sources said the two countries did not see eye to eye on the composition of the force, where it would be based, and how it would be financed.

But since the agreement with Iran was signed, Saudi appears to be seeking a closer relationship with Egypt. Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman was warmly greeted by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he attended a military graduation ceremony. Both countries also announced the Cairo Declaration, which encompassed six main aspects of renewed cooperation. 

Sisi and King Salman bin Abdel-Aziz of Saudi Arabia “blessed” the Cairo Declaration in a phone conversation, agreeing to put it into effect immediately. A day later, after chairing a National Defense Council meeting attended by the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, chiefs of intelligence and commanders of army divisions, Sisi announced Egypt would extend by six months the presence of its troops near Yemen that provide support for the Saudi-led joint force backing Yemeni President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Read Khaled Dawoud’s article, “Egypt and Saudi Make a Public Show of Support” on EgyptSource