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Sharp disagreements between Egyptian and Gulf participants at a UAE seminar on Egypt

Egyptian and Gulf participants clashed during a seminar held recently in the UAE, Swiss-Info reported.

The seminar, titled “Egypt: The present and future outlooks,” was held on June 15-16 at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Center for Studies.

According to the report’s author, Saad Mahyo, the dialogue among Egyptian and Gulf participants in the conference reached the point of “explosion” after discussions started on the role of Gulf countries in supporting Egyptian economy.

The seminar included topics such as: the priorities of the current regime; future scenarios of reconciliation vs. violence; the economic crisis in Egypt; civil society; religion; and foreign policy challenges.

The final session, focused on foreign policy, witnessed heated arguments when Gulf participants asked questions on “what Egypt wants from the Gulf”. The questions were phrased in a “provocative” attitude, the report mentions. For instance, one Gulf researcher demanded Sisi to “present his credentials” to his Gulf allies, which angered Egyptian participants. In an attempt to contain their anger, the Gulf participant then pointed out that Sisi should present a clear platform on the future of bilateral relations with Gulf countries.

“It was not immediately clear why the atmosphere was tense, especially that Egyptian-Gulf relations are going through a honey-moon period, with intensive financial support from the Gulf in exchange for Egypt’s commitment to advancing the region’s security and stability,” Mahyo said.

The report suggested that the reason for “misunderstanding” and “miscommunication” between the two sides is twofold: First, “the lack of foundations of a joint Arab national security strategy, on which Arab regional order was built half a century ago before it was gradually eroded first with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and then with American occupation of Iraq.”

Second, according to Swiss-info report, “Egypt and the Gulf are overwhelmed with huge domestic challenges, in some cases amounting to existential threats.”

Regarding the future of the Muslim Brotherhood, a number of participants called for opening the doors for reconciliation, while the vast majority of Egyptian participants opposed any dialogue with the MB, both as a religious and political group.

Those who argued for integrating the Brotherhood stressed that excluding them would lead to an Algerian scenario, or even an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. On the other hand, opponents of integration said that the Brotherhood is more loyal to its international organisation than to its home country. The latter camp expressed fears about the Cairo Declaration which called for unity among January 25 revolutionaries.

The seminar concluded that relations with the Brotherhood have two possible scenarios: first, open confrontation, and linking the conflict with the Brotherhood to the overall regional battle against terrorism. The second scenario is the “Egyptianisation” of the Brotherhood, or in other words dismantling its international organisation and then embarking on reconciliation with the regime with the help of a third party.

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