Further Steps Towards Improving Egyptian-Qatari Relations: El-Sisi In Doha

A couple months after their last encounter, the Egyptian and Qatari heads of government are set to meet again in Qatar this week. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will arrive in Doha on Tuesday, press agencies report, for a two-day visit in which he will entertain talks with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar. The visit, which is also el-Sisi’s first official one in Qatar since he became President in 2014, is a significant demonstration of the improvement in Egyptian-Qatari relations. The two Middle Eastern leaders will discuss regional and international issues, as well as ways to increase investments and exchanges between their countries. 

Relations between Egypt and Qatar have been tense in the last decade, and initially started deteriorating in 2013. In July of that year President el-Sisi, who was at the time serving as Minister of Defence, led the military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi’s government, the first democratically elected one in the history of the country. Morsi had the support of Qatari leaders, who therefore strongly criticized the intervention of the army and called for the liberation of the ousted president, who was kept under detention in an undisclosed location for his safety – or so Egyptian authorities claim.  

In 2017, further developments led to a complete strain in relations between Qatar and many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The reason behind the so-called Gulf rift was Doha’s alleged support of the extremist terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood, as well as its soft line with Iran. As a result, diplomatic, travel and trade ties with Qatar were cut off. The rift ended in January 2021, with an agreement signed by all parties at a summit in Saudi Arabia. 

Since then, Egypt and Qatar have worked to restore diplomatic relations. In the spring of this year, el-Sisi announced that the Gulf states would be investing $5 billion in Egypt. Shortly after that, the Qatari Emir organized a diplomatic visit to Cairo for the first time in seven years. Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi, Qatar’s ambassador to Egypt described the event as a “significant” step towards normalization. Talks between the leaders focused mainly on the ties between the two countries and on other regional and global topics, especially in preparation for US President Joe Biden’s visit in July. In addition to that, a number of meetings between Egyptian and Qatari leaders were organized with the aim to improve trade and investments – something that Egypt desperately needs.

The Egyptian economy has been suffering as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The country is the world’s largest importer of wheat, with almost 80% of its supply coming from Russia and Ukraine. In addition to that, the tourism sector heavily relies on visitors from those two countries. The ongoing war has therefore resulted in a steep increase in prices, financing challenges and the plummeting of the national currency to a near-record of $1 USD for 19 Egyptian pounds. This presidential visit, however, will likely guarantee further Qatari investments in Egypt, which will have a positive effect on the economy.  

In general, the restoration of relations between Cairo and Doha will most definitely ensure more security and stability in the region. 

Camilla Giussani