Egypt sends envoy to Gulf summit amid possible thaw with Qatar

Aidan Lewis
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry meets with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud at Tahrir Palace in Cairo

By Aidan Lewis

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt sent its foreign minister to a summit of Gulf Arab leaders on Tuesday expected to produce a formal agreement towards ending a regional dispute with Qatar, while Qatar's finance minister made a rare trip to Cairo.

Egypt joined Gulf allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in severing diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in 2017 over allegations it supports terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

In recent days the Egyptian presidency and foreign ministry have softened their tone, expressing support for reconciliation.

There was no confirmation Egypt planned to restore ties, however, and recent Egyptian statements said any deal should carry commitments to "non-interference in internal affairs, confronting all threats to the security and stability of Arab countries and peoples, and preserving Arab national security".

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry flew to the Gulf summit in al-Ula in Saudi Arabia after an announcement that Riyadh would reopen its airspace and sea and land border to Qatar.

In Cairo, Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi arrived on a private flight from Doha to attend the inauguration of a luxury hotel developed by Qatari Diar, sources at Cairo airport and Qatari embassy officials said.

The completed Nile-side St Regis hotel had long stood idle during the blockade, but it was unclear if the timing of the trip was linked to any wider detente.

When the boycott was announced, Egypt and its allies called on Qatar to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other demands.

The Islamist group was outlawed in Egypt after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the ouster of the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in 2013, before being elected president himself the following year.

Much of the group's senior leadership was jailed in Egypt but other members took refuge abroad in Qatar or its regional ally Turkey.

Egypt and the UAE have also found themselves at odds with Turkey and Qatar in Libya, where they have backed opposing factions in a civil conflict.

Two Egyptian intelligence sources told Reuters earlier this week that Egypt was still making Doha cutting support for Muslim Brotherhood leaders abroad a condition for the restoration of ties with Qatar.

(Additional reporting by Abdel Nasser Aboul el-Fadl and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Catherine Evans)