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GCC Turning against Itself: Flirts with Qatar, Apologizes to Egypt

After GCCaddressing sharp criticism to Egypt, following the accusations against Qatar of “supporting terrorism”, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), needed just a few hours to back off his criticisms earlier on Thursday. In the first statement, he described the accusations leveled by Egypt as baseless ones that defy the truth. Yet, a second statement followed to contradict the first and to reiterate GCC’s “support and sustain for the Arab Republic of Egypt under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in all fields”.

What happened in a few hours time that made the GCC turn against itself?

The recent tension between Cairo and Doha erupted again, after the delegate of Qatar, during the Arab League Permanent Delegates meeting, announced his reservation on an item that allows Egypt to militarily strike the ISIL sites in Libya. This came against the backdrop of the massacre committed by this militant group of killing 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were working in neighboring Arab State.

According to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, the representative of Egypt, Ambassador Tariq Adel, considered that “the Qatari reservation is not surprising, since it once again confirms that Qatar is out of the Arab consensus”. He continued saying, “according to our readings in Egypt’s affairs regarding this Qatari reservation, it has become clear that Qatar revealed its position that supports terrorism”. This prompted Doha to recall its ambassador from Cairo.

The latest positions necessitated the GCC to address “shocking” criticism to Egypt. Abdullatif Al-Zayani expressed in a statement published by International news agencies his rejection to the accusations made by the Egyptian Ambassador to Qatar, and described them as “baseless accusations that defy the truth”. He believed that they also ignore what he described as “sincere efforts made by the State of Qatar with GCC member states and the Arab countries to combat terrorism and extremism at all levels, and to support the Joint Action”, adding that this tone has never been used before by Egypt in its relations with the GCC and particularly with Saudi Arabia.

In fact, the Egyptians and the Gulf people were shocked by Al-Zayani’s position. More than 29 million Egyptians have had comments within just hours insulting Qatar. At the level of the Gulf States, the Saudi, Gulf, Emirati, and Bahraini people rushed to twit to support the “Hashtag” “the statement by Al-Zayani does not represent me”.

The GCC worked hard to find a way out, so it found nothing better than denying officially that it adopted such a position. However, its denial needed hours to be finalized what was enough to cause confusion and to raise questions such as: where would the Gulf-Egyptian relations reach to? Likewise, there were many analyses about the policies that would be adopted by the new Saudi leadership and would differ from their previous ones, especially that the positions of the GCC reflect the positions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself.

Few hours later, Al-Zayani issued a second statement, in which he denied “what was spread by mass media regarding the statements that were attributed to him about the Gulf-Egyptian relations”. He said that the GCC member states stress that “they absolutely stand with Egypt and its brethrens in fighting against terrorism and protecting its citizens at home and abroad”. Al-Zayani emphasized that the GCC “always seek to support and sustain the Republic of Egypt under the leadership of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in all fields, adding that Egypt’s security and stability is “part and parcel” of the Gulf security and stability, especially in view of the critical and sensitive circumstances faced by the region and the entire world”.

Interestingly, the first statement was not reported by the mass media in the majority of the Gulf States, except for Qatar, unlike the second one that the Gulf official news agencies hastened to pass on, except for Qatar also.

What really happened?

Saudi Arabia currying favor with Qatar and Egypt

The researcher and writer in the Saudi Affairs, Fouad Ibrahim, considers that the aim of what happened was to send a message to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that says that “the situation is no longer as it was before; for Qatar is today part of the Gulf structure after it returned to the Gulf’s ‘house of obedience’. Therefore, al-Sisi has to take notice of the new development in the Saudi-Qatari relations”.

Fouad Ibrahim, during a phone call with Al-Manar website, stated that the first statement came to show “nominal solidarity” with Qatar, after accusing it of playing a role in supporting terrorism. The Saudi writer points to some considerations and developments that intended to keep Qatar embraced by the Gulf. Ibrahim says: “Saudi Arabia sought very much to achieve this, and thus it worked hard on it. For this reason, Mohammed Bin Nayef visited Qatar to accentuate the relationship between his country and the Gulf Emirate”. This comes in light of the challenges faced by Saudi Arabia in the region, not to mention the threat that is lurking it as a result of the developments in Yemen.

However, despite its economic need for the Gulf donations, Egypt can never be treated as a country that can easily submit to the Gulf, as said by the Saudi researcher, bringing to mind the leaks by al-Sisi when he said that the Gulf States are unrealistic entities and that they should pay the price for being protected by Egypt ever since the Gulf II war”. He added that “Egypt seeks not to be affiliated to specific axis and that is why it opened to Russia, as it is keen to preserve its image as a country that “fights terrorism”, by which it pleases the Western States.

According to Fouad Ibrahim, the first statement came to please Qatar completely, whereas the second came to try to win over Egypt. Yet, he believes that the Egyptian-Saudi relations are blurred as if by fog, after King Salman Bin Abdul assumed power in the Kingdom.

Qatari pressures behind the first statement… and the second came as an apology

On the other hand, Osama Al-Dalil, Head of the Foreign Affairs Department at “Al-Ahram Al-Arabi” Newspaper, considered that Al-Zayani’s second statement did not come to reject the first statement as much as it came to apology for the “unsuccessfulness in calculating the position”.

Al-Dalil, in an interview with Al-Manar website, revealed that the second statement came after consultations within the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, which was surprised by the first statement. The consultations included “discussing the possibility of replying and studying the suitable ways for doing so, as well as examining with the concerned parties the explanation for this position. In theory, the second statement synchronized with diplomatic contacts with a number of Ambassadors, who were querying about its backgrounds.

He considered that what was published about Al-Zayani’s first statement came as a result of Qatari pressures. Few hours later, the second statement has been issued to end the crisis and to cut the way in front of any Egyptian opposing reply”.

The Egyptian Journalist confirmed that the Egyptian accusations, which detonated the crisis, were originally rooted; for they were supported by information revealed by British official leaked documents, as well as by reports by foreign press, that talk about Qatar’s support for the terrorist groups on a daily basis. Al-Dalil asserts that Qatar with its material potentials “cannot contend the Egyptian State in terms of the status and role”.

Hence, no matter if the two statements were considered a flirting between two conflicting parties or were seen as an apology for a mistake, they remain to be contradicting. A questions remains, is this a Saudi weakness that started to unfold, or it is a wavering in managing the files of a region that is standing on a hot tinplate?

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