Saudi-Egyptian relations .. where to?

– A Saudi visit to Cairo for mending relations denied and ‘expulsion of ambassador’ rumor declared groundless

– Egyptian-Saudi relations strained last month after Cairo voted in favor of a Russian draft resolution regarding Syria

Officials always deny

The Saudi Ambassador to Egypt has recently denied reports about a visit by a high-profile Saudi delegation to Cairo to mend fences with Egypt, reported Anadolu Agency. Also, rumors that the Saudi ambassador to Egypt was expelled was totally denied, according to Moheet..

Ahmed Kattan said on Twitter on Wednesday Egyptian news reports about the visit were groundless.

Egyptian media earlier said a high-level Saudi delegation had arrived in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss ways of easing tension between the two Arab allies.

Egyptian-Saudi relations strained last month after Cairo voted in favor of a Russian draft resolution regarding war-torn Syria.

Following the vote, Saudi Arabia’s state oil firm Aramco suspended oil shipments to Egypt, forcing Cairo to buy oil from other sources to meet the needs of the local market.

Saudi Arabia was a major supporter of the military-backed regime in Egypt following the 2013 coup against Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, and has channeled billions of dollars in support of Egypt’s economy.

A rumor denied 

Also, a widely-spread rumor on an alleged “expulsion of the Saudi ambassador to Cairo” has revealed the existence of giant support groups on social networking sites that have the ability to raise popular confusion between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, reported Moheet.

The “expulsion of the Saudi ambassador” rumor dominated, despite being a placebo, the concerns of bloggers on social networking sites in the two countries, and all attempts by the Saudi embassy and some media outlets in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to deny the rumor early before its spread have all failed.

The New Arab published a report on Oct. 21 under the above title, tracking the Saudi-Egyptian relations. Since Egypt’s vote on the Russian-backed draft resolution in the United Nations security council, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have started a cold war on media platforms. Egyptian officials, however, are denying any political disagreement between the two countries.
 “Egypt’s vote on October 8 to support a Russian Security Council resolution on Aleppo has exposed an unprecedented rift between Egypt and its strongest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The vote triggered the first public condemnation by the Saudis of the Egyptian regime, which they helped bring to power three years ago. The Saudi criticism also coincided with cutting monthly discounted oil shipments to Egypt, a much-needed support for the country’s deteriorating economy,” said The New Arab in its report.

A few days later, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told military leaders that the cutting of the oil supply was only a commercial matter. However, he warned Egyptians that “fully independent decision-making, independent states endure a lot. What is happening is an attempt to pressure Egypt. Egypt will only kneel to God.”

“The timing of the rising tension, after the UN Security Council vote on Aleppo, may give a misleading impression that the core disagreement between the two allies is about Syria. However, a more careful look at Egypt’s foreign policy under Sisi shows that the divide between the two countries is much larger,” said the report.

Two different visions

Saudi Arabia is a regional hegemon which wants Arab countries to rally behind its efforts to “defend” the Arab world from regional rivals, especially Iran. Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has engaged with Iran in proxy wars in at least three countries, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.

Such conflicts cost Saudi Arabia billions of dollars and the lives of dozens of its citizens. Therefore, when Saudi Arabia supported Egypt’s 2013 military coup, which overthrew the regime of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected president and former Muslim Brotherhood leader, it was largely motivated by ending the expansion of the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood – two forces which it feared threatened the internal stability of the kingdom.

It might have hoped the new Egyptian regime would join Riyadh in its prolonged conflict with Iran.

Before taking office and during his first few months in power, Sisi hailed the Saudi and Gulf support to his regime and promised a grateful Egypt, ready to send troops to defend the Gulf nations as fast as “the trip between Egypt and the Gulf takes”.

Yet Sisi’s sweet talk never materialised into tangible support. Eight months after taking office, Sisi told his military leaders that “Egypt’s military is for Egypt only and not for anyone else”. Sisi also reflected in his speeches and foreign policy a very different vision from that adopted by the Saudis.

Instead of rallying behind Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Iran, Sisi adopted a vision of Egyptian foreign policy designed to protect his regime, maximise its freedom of movement, and diversify its sources of foreign support -even if such goals contradicted with Saudi and Gulf interests and led him to reach out to the Saudis’ main regional rivals, including Iran itself.