Qatar Recalls Ambassador to Egypt amid New RowFebruary 19, 2015 in Egypt, Qatar
19 February– The Qatari government has recalled its ambassador to Egypt, following a dispute over Egyptian air strikes on Islamic State targets in Libya. Days earlier, Egyptian and Libyan fighter jets conducted two waves of attacks in Derna, Libya, hours after ISIS militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians. The attacks targeted ISIS militant camps, training sites and weapons storage facilities.
Following the attacks, Qatari foreign ministry official, Saad bin Ali al-Muhannadi expressed concern Egyptian engagement during a meeting of the Arab League, warning against “unilateral military action in another member (state) in a way that could harm innocent civilians”. Qatar’s concern notwithstanding, the Arab League issued a statement that expressed the “complete understanding” of the strikes by the Egyptian air force. Further, the League issued its support of Cairo’s call for the UN to lift an arms embargo that is in place against the Libyan Army.
Here again, Qatar took an opposing view; Al-Muhannadi expressed concerns that arming the Libyan army could give leverage to one party before peace talks were concluded and a coalition government was formed.
The Qatari opinions angered the Egyptian envoy. Tareq Adel blasted the moves, saying it shows Qatar “supports terrorism.” The rift reignited a months-long row. Ties between Egypt and Qatar deteriorated when then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi’s political organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, is backed by Qatar. The Muslim Brotherhood became a designated terrorist organisation in Egypt in 2013, and later in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Last year, all nations withdrew their ambassadors over Qatar’s support for the Brotherhood.
While the other nations returned their envoys to Qatar in November, the tenuous diplomatic thaw between Egypt and Qatar emerged only two months ago, during a reconciliation meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In December, the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news network shut down its Egypt channel, quieting a major source of tension. Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera in general — and its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in particular — of doing Doha’s bidding by serving as Islamists’ mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks. The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests. Tensions between the two nations increased over the arrest, trial and prison sentences for three journalists from Al-Jazeera’s English channel on terrorism-related charges for allegedly helping the Brotherhood. However in light of the diplomatic thaw, the cases have been re-examined and at least one of the journalists, Peter Greste, has been allowed to return to his native Australia.
During the Arab League meeting, the Gulf Cooperation Council sided with Qatar. In a statement issued by GCC head Abdullatif Al-Zayani, he states, that the Egyptian accusations against Qatar are baseless, distort the truth and ignore the sincere efforts Qatar has exerted with its GCC neighbours to combat terrorism and extremism on all its levels.” The GCC also expressed concerns that it did not want another internal rift that could impact diplomatic relations once more.
Sisi is eager to work with Qatar’s wealthy Gulf neighbours, who have provided financial and political backing. It is likely that Egypt will work quickly to diffuse tensions as the GCC has expressed its support of Qatar. Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya, said in an interview that Doha did not support the Muslim Brotherhood, adding that the rift that had divided Gulf Arab nations was history. He added there were “differences of opinion, which is healthy, and not disputes” between Gulf Arab countries.