Egypt–Saudi Arabia relations
Egypt–Saudi Arabia relations are the relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Historically, they could also be considered as extending several centuries back to the relations between earlier regimes in Egypt – the highly autonomous Egypt Eyalet in the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Egypt – and the earlier manifestations of Saudi/Wahhabi power in the Arabian Peninsula (Emirate of Diriyah).
Between 1811 and 1818 Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, governor of Egypt, led a campaign against the Emirate of Diriyah – as the First Saudi State was known – on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan. Ibrahim conquered Hejaz and Nejd and brought that first Saudi state to an end.
Gamal Abdel Nasser era
Under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt, backed by the Soviet Union, represented the Non-Aligned Movement and pan-Arabism, and was a nominal advocate of secularism and republicanism. The Saudis by contrast were strong supporters of absolute monarchy and Islamist theocracy, and were generally close to the governments of the United Kingdom and United States. This meant that the Saudi-Egyptian rivalry was one of the many threads of the Arab Cold War, which was manifested for example in the North Yemen Civil War, in which a Nasserist military junta headed by Abdullah as-Sallal overthrew the pro-Saudi Yemeni monarchy.
Anwar Sadat era
Hosni Mubarak era
Unlike the situation at the time of Nasser, Mubarak's Egypt – a conservative dictatorship closely allied with the United States – no longer represented an ideological or political polar opposite to Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, there remained a rivalry between the two countries, both aspiring to preeminence in the Arab World in general and among the Arab allies of the US in particular. This rivalry manifested itself, for example, when U.S. President Barack Obama made a major tour of the Middle East in 2009, soon after assuming power. The Saudis resented Obama's choice of Cairo as the venue for making a key policy speech, and State Department officials made an effort to mollify them by following up the Cairo speech with a high-profile Presidential visit to the Saudi capital.
During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Saudi King Abdullah expressed support for Hosni Mubarak. "No Arab or Muslim can tolerate any meddling in the security and stability of Arab and Muslim Egypt by those who infiltrated the people in the name of freedom of expression, exploiting it to inject their destructive hatred. As they condemn this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people and government declares it stands with all its resources with the government of Egypt and its people." He condemned the "people who tried to destabilise the security and stability of Egypt."
After the 2011 Egyptian revolution, relations between the two countries greatly deteriorated.
2011 Jeddah airport protest
On 9 April 2011, hundreds of Egyptians gathered at the Saudi embassy in Cairo to protest mistreatment of Umrah pilgrims by Saudi Arabian Airlines and King Abdulaziz International Airport authorities in Jeddah. They wanted the Saudi ambassador, Hisham Nazer, to exit the country immediately. The protesters argued that the airport did not arrange enough flights back to Egypt in time for Eid ul-Fitr after thousands were stranded in the country. They also expressed disgust over how Saudi Arabian Airlines officials treated pilgrims at the airport, and protested that Saudi officials had meddled in Egyptian affairs during the revolution.
2012 Saudi Arabia embassy lock-up
On 28 April 2012, Saudi Arabia announced the closure of its Cairo embassy and its consulates in Alexandria and Suez, following Egyptian protests over the detention of the Egyptian lawyer Ahmed al-Gizawi in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in April 2012, al-Gizawi was detained shortly after his arrival in Saudi Arabia which some believe was because he defamed King Abdullah by filing a lawsuit in a South Cairo court against Saudi monarch King Abdullah on behalf of Egyptian citizens held without charge in Saudi prisons. Saudi authorities said he was arrested at the King Abdulaziz International Airport near Jeddah on 17 April for possession of 21,000 Xanax anti-anxiety pills, which are banned in the country. They expressed doubt that he intended to go on a pilgrimage, as he was not wearing the typical white pilgrim dress (Ihram). According to his wife, he was sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and 20 lashes after he arrived for a pilgrimage (Umrah).
An estimated 1,000 Egyptian protesters demonstrated in front of the Saudi embassy in Cairo on 27 April, demanding the release of al-Gizawi and of the other Egyptians held in Saudi jails. Following the protests Saudi authorities announced the closure of the Saudi embassy and other consulates in Egypt. Egypt's head of military council, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said Egypt is working to heal the rift with Saudi Arabia over the surprise decision. Observers said that it is the worst fall-out in relations between the two countries since Saudi Arabia severed its ties with Egypt in 1979.
Soon after the embassy incident, Saudi Arabia announced that they would return ambassador Ahmad Abdulaziz Kattan and his envoy to Egypt after feverish efforts by Egyptian politicians, fearing the loss of aid, to gain back Saudi favor. King Abdullah said that he could "not allow this passing crisis to go on for long".
On 10 May 2012, ambassador Kattan announced that the kingdom agreed to provide US$500 million in aid to Egypt and will deposit an additional US$1 billion at the country's central bank as part of the $2.7 billion support package they had agreed in 2011. Saudi Arabia will also export $250 million worth of butane to Egypt, which has faced ongoing shortages of the fuel, as well as US$200 million to help small and mid-sized firms. The donation was part of a move by multiple Gulf states to send a large aid package to Egypt.
Visit of Morsi
Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi's first official visit was to Saudi Arabia in August 2012, although he was the presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose views are not fully aligned with those of the Saudi government. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi stated that Saudi Arabia is a pragmatic country and that whoever the president of Egypt is, Saudi government is aware of the fact that it has to maintain good relations with this country.
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