Gulf countries will support the Egyptian government through an alternative method to pledging cash, following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s formal inauguration as Egypt’s new president in June 2014.
Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud had called for a conference to discuss economic support for Egypt, which was later renamed the Economic Summit.
However, Egypt’s political scene has changed a lot in nine months. The most recent tension occurred in February, when the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdul Latif Al-Zayani announced his rejection of accusations by Egypt’s representative to the Arab League against Qatar.
Qatar is portrayed in the Egyptian media as a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, which is now banned in Egypt, and has been listed as a “terrorist organisation” since December 2013. Doha was against the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and Egyptian-Qatari ties have been strained since then, resulting in Qatar’s withdrawal of its ambassador to Egypt.
Qatar, a firm Morsi supporter, lent Egypt $7.5bn in aid during Morsi’s year in power, with the Gulf country also promising billions of dollars in further investments. Qatar had “at least superficially” patched up relation with Egypt, said Middle East Policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Andrew Hammond, referring to the slight change in Qatar’s policy towards Egypt.
The change was most noticeable in September 2014, when Qatar decided to expel seven Muslim Brotherhood members who had earlier fled there.
However, new leaks, aired by pro-Morsi satellite channel Mekamelin in early February, allegedly reveal top government officials are dissatisfied with financial support from the main GCC countries.
In this context, Hammond said he thinks one of the main goals of this conference will be to assert that the GCC remains committed to Egypt’s stability. This is especially after the new Saudi king’s ascension to power and the leaked recording “that caused embarrassment to Al-Sisi in the Gulf,” he explained.
“Before there was no question of that, now it needs to be stated again,” Hammond said. He added it will be a chance for the Egyptian government to move beyond tensions with Riyadh in particular over its fears of new Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s leadership and lingering anger over the leaks.
On the GCC’s significance to Egypt’s economy, Hammond said: “The Gulf has been a lifeline for the past two years, but it’s not viable politically and economically for the long term, perhaps not even the medium term. So there are limits to what such conferences can achieve.”
Hammond said Egypt has the potential to be a “great threat” to the GCC, and that it is of utmost importance that the Egyptian government is on close term with them. “Egypt’s position on Iran, the Islamist movement and Israel-Palestine could cause Gulf regimes major problems if it was aligned with theirs,” Hammond added.