Relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt are beginning to strain as a result of the Egyptian regime’s lack of support for the kingdom’s foreign policy.
After President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi came to power through a coup on 3 July 2013, the Saudi regime, along with a number of other GCC rallied support for the coup. Since then, the Gulf monarchies have pledged billions to keep Sisi’s regime afloat, by funding its government, providing aid for economic relief and to support Egypt’s military, which is notorious for human rights abuses. Investment projects in Egypt by the Gulf Arab states quickly became a norm.
In return, the Gulf states expected Sisi’s regime to give them backing both regionally and on the international platform. One of the main tests for this was the Egyptian reaction to the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen.
While the Egyptian government reiterates its full support for Saudi Arabia, its military support was not as great as it expected. While Saudi’s role in the campaign is primarily conducting airstrikes, though they provided ground training for tribes and local resistance forces, they were relying on countries that have joined the coalition to supplement ground forces against Houthi and Saleh militias.
Egypt’s contribution has provided limited naval and air support to the coalition, with around 800 soldiers being present to guard the Red Sea and Bab El-Mandab strait. This area has been free from the Houthi rebels since mid-July 2015.
In recent days, Egypt has revealed its policy on Syria conflicts with Saudi Arabia’s. Sisi’s regime advocates a political process that includes current President Bashar Al Assad, while Riyadh is bitterly against the Assad regime and the Iranian and Russian interventions that followed.
This weekend, Egypt voted for a Russian draft resolution in the UN Security Council which called for relief in Syria. This angered a number of Saudi officials and has led to the Saudi Arabian oil co-operation ARAMCO to suspending oil sales to Egypt.
Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar has also reported that Saudi may start cutting aid to Egypt. In an interview, an anonymous Egyptian diplomat said ARAMCO’s move was not a surprise and confirmed that Saudi Arabia has indeed suspended investment projects in Egypt, without giving further details.