Emirates Broker Saudi-Egyptian Rift, Harness Cairo to Gulf Security

The Gulf emirates are bending every effort toward patching up the quarrel marring relations between King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi since last year.
The effort is spearheaded by Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They are turning to Egypt, which has the largest army in the Arab world, to help consolidate regional security in a period of deep uncertainty and their efforts have borne first fruits.
Saudi and Egyptian state media have toned down their reciprocal recriminations and, most significantly, Egypt’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy was welcomed in the UAE Saturday, Jan. 21, to become the first Egyptian army chief to be invited to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) conference of military leaders.
Indeed, the conference immediately got down to brass tacks for coordinating regional and international efforts to eradicate terrorism, as well as roping in Egypt, Jordan and the US to help the region confront the threats to its stability.
The Egyptian president quickly responded to the appeal. The next day, Sunday Jan, 22, he called a special National Defense Council meeting to approve the prolongation of Egypt’s military mission in the Gulf, Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandeb straits regions. He also granted another request from the Kuwait and Emirati rulers to renew Cairo’s commitment to treat Gulf security as an integral element of Egypt’s own national security.
The trouble between Cairo and Riyadh erupted last year when an Egyptian court, responding to popular protest, blocked President El-Sisi’s pledge to cede the strategic Red Sea Islands of Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabian sovereignty. This was a gift to the visiting Saudi monarch in recognition of Riyadh’s multibillion aid program for Egypt.
The Saudis took umbrage over the detraction and demanded that El-Sisi do more to annul the court’s ruling. They also called on him to give up his covert support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, at a time that Riyadh was backing Syrian rebel groups who were fighting for his ouster.
When both demands were rebuffed, the Saudis went for Egypt’s lifeline.
On Dec. 16, a high-ranking Saudi delegation toured Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, a major bone of contention between Cairo and Addis Ababa. The visitors, led by Ahmed al-Katib, special adviser to the Saudi monarch, agreed to set up a joint committee with their hosts to examine the possibility of generating renewable energy. Cairo sees this dam as a national calamity. Its construction will reduce the amount of Nile water reaching Egypt and give Ethiopia the power to completely shut down the flow that gives life to the millions of Egyptian farmers along its banks.
To bury the hatchet with Cairo, the Saudis will have to put their newfound ties with Ethiopia in abeyance. Steps to break the ice between them have taken place. Abdel Mohsen al Sheikh, who is close to the throne in Riyadh, arrived in Cairo secretly this week with a personal message from King Salman to the Egyptian President. Moving in the opposite direction, an Egyptian economic delegation visited Riyadh and was promised that Saudi Arabia would expand its imports of Egyptian cotton and increase investment in its economy.

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