Egypt-Qatar Relations on Ice

egypt qatar relations
Egyptians burn a Qatari flag during a protest at Qatar’s embassy in Cairo.

In the latest display of worsening Egypt-Qatar relations, Qatari ambassador to Egypt Saif Moqadam Al-Boenain was summoned by the Egyptian foreign ministry on Saturday over complaints about the gulf country’s alleged meddling.

“Egypt reiterates that it will not allow any external party to interfere in its internal affairs under any name or justification,” ministry spokesperson Badr Abdelatty said.

The meeting follows a Qatari statement released Friday condemning Egypt’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Egyptian government blamed the Brotherhood for last week’s bombing of a police directorate north of the capital, which left 15 dead and over 100 people wounded. A Jihadist group based in Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The decision to designate popular political movements as terrorist organizations, and labeling peaceful demonstrations as terrorism, did not succeed in stopping the peaceful protests,” the statement said. “It was only a prelude to a shoot-to-kill policy on demonstrators.”

Violent clashes between Brotherhood supporters and security forces on Friday left 17 people dead – the highest death toll in three months of daily demonstrations by the Islamist movement, which has been ceaseless since the ouster of former president and MB member Mohammed Morsy last summer.

Despite widespread allegations to the contrary, Qatar has repeatedly denied supplying funding and support to the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said last month that his country’s foreign policy was “to work with the government and not any particular party.”

But for the first time since Morsy’s Jul. 3 ouster, Doha also appears to be condemning the former president’s ongoing detention.

“Dialogue is not possible in the absence of one of its parties and the holding of its symbols,” a Qatari foreign ministry official told state news agency QNA.

Complaints against Al Jazeera were also lodged in the ministry meeting. The Qatari-owned news organization is widely accused of broadcasting biased coverage of the unrest in Egypt in favor of the Brotherhood.

Last November, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi said in an interview that Al Jazeera was one of the reasons for Egypt and Qatar’s worsening ties.

The news organization has been a frequent target in Egypt’s media crackdown since the change in government, with 15 of its Cairo-based journalists detained just last week for broadcasting content accused of damaging the country’s reputation.

The two countries’ previously close bilateral relations have chilled since Jul. 3, with Egypt returning some two billion dollars in Qatari aid last September. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have pledged about 12 billion dollars to Egypt in just the last few weeks alone.

Bahrain is also supportive of Egypt’s current military-backed leadership while Oman is neutral, leaving Qatar as the only GCC country seemingly opposed to the Egyptian military rule.

With the Brotherhood’s proclaimed boycott of the upcoming Jan. 14-15 constitutional referendum and calls for renewed protests, the country’s domestic political situation is in no soon sight of settling – a likely sign that Egypt-Qatar relations will also remain unstable.

 

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