Will the Bahraini King Succeed in Mending the Egyptian-Saudi Relations Ahead of the Arab Summit?

King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifah of Bahrain arrived in Cairo on Monday for an official visit.

According to Egyptian state media reports, al-Sisi and King Hamad’s meeting focused on discussing the recent developments in the Middle East as well as enhancing the bilateral relations between Bahrain and Egypt.

However, an Egyptian government sources said that the meeting was mostly an attempt to “patch up damaged relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia ahead of the annual Arab League summit on Wednesday.”

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said “Bahrain is the closest Gulf country to Saudi Arabia and it has a strong relationship with Egypt, putting it in a position to mediate.”

He added that the meeting addressed the importance of Saudi King Salman’s meeting with Sisi on the sidelines of the upcoming Arab summit and should begin the process of “breaking the ice” between the two countries.

The sources said, “The Gulf states think it is essential that at this time there must be no disputes with Egypt so Arab countries can focus on ending the ongoing crisis in the region and curbing Iran’s growing influence.”

In the past few months, Egypt called many Gulf countries to mediate with the Saudi Kingdom to end the tension between both countries.

In November 2016, media reports cited Egyptian political sources who unveiled that Egypt asked Bahrain and UAE to mediate with Saudi Arabia to end the differences between the two parties that led the Kingdom to halt the supply of oil products to Egypt. However, these mediation didn’t succeed in mending the tensions between both countries.

In fact, Saudi Arbia as well as many Gulf states poured billions of dollars to al-Sisi regime after the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

However, cracks and disagreements appeared between both countries as they have been at odds on a number of political issues in the region;over Syria and other issues.

As Saudi Arabia supports the Syrian opposition, Egypt pushes for a political solution keeping Assad in power as it fears from Islamist militants among the rebels’ ranks.

A Cairo-based analyst at the Carnegie Middle East Center, Amr Adly, said the two countries have different priorities, with Saudi Arabia focused on containing its main regional rival, Iran.

Meanwhile, Egypt, seeks to combat the Muslim Brotherhood, a region-wide movement that Cairo views as a terrorist group.

Tensions between Cairo and Riyadh reached its peaks when Cairo voted for the Russian resolution in the UN Security Council last October.

As a result, Cairo’s support for the Russian version caused significant anger in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, and was apparently the main for Riyadh cutting off the delivery of oil supplies to Egypt despite the existence of a multiyear agreement for such discounted sales.

Under the initial oil deal, Saudi Arabia agreed in April 2016 to provide Egypt with 700,000 tonnes of fuel monthly for five years on easy repayment terms.

In addition, there have even been reports on security cooperation between Al-Sisi and Al-Assad’s regime. Media reports have pointed the presence of military personnel and other material support to help prop up the Assad regime in Damascus.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia had hoped that Egypt might contribute ground troops to a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

According to recent media reports, the shipments resumed several days ago, signalling possible rapprochement that might be sealed at the summit.