The Egyptian campaign against Saudi Arabia has reached new heights when a newspaper loyal to coup President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi described the Saudi monarch, King Salman Bin Abdelaziz, as a traitor. In the meantime, pro-Sisi parliamentarians have launched a sharp attack on Saudi Arabia, expressing contempt for it. One of them said: “We want to position Saudi Arabia where it deserves to be placed.”
Yesterday, the human rights committee of the post-coup parliament witnessed a stormy attack on the visit made on Friday to Ethiopia by Saudi officials and what has been reported of Saudi funding for the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is said to reduce Egypt’s share of the waters of the Nile.
MP Said Shababik, one of the committee’s members, said: “We want to position Saudi Arabia where it deserves to be placed.”
This came after MP Magdy Seif raised questions, during the committee’s meeting, in the presence of assistant Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Khalid Yusri, about the connection between the visit and the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Yusri responded by saying that the Egyptian foreign ministry is following everything that is taking place outside the country and that there is no information as to whether there are agreed upon joint projects between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia other than what was announced during the visit.
‘His Majesty the Traitor’
In a new escalation in the press, the pro-regime International News newspaper yesterday published a picture of King Salman on the front page with a headline which read: “His Majesty the Traitor”. The newspaper attacked the Saudi monarch and described him as a traitor.
In a series of subheadings, the newspaper explains that it considers the Saudi monarch a traitor for three reasons:
First, because he contradicted the will of his late brother (King Abdullah) and stopped the supply of petroleum to Egypt.
Second, because he issued the Gulf Cooperation Council States’ communique that denounced Cairo. The newspaper here refers to the Gulf communique that rejected the insertion of Qatar’s name in the statement issued by the Egyptian interior ministry regarding the bombing of the church in Cairo.
Third, because he dispatched his advisor to visit the Renaissance Dam and expressed support for Ethiopia.
Some observers see such media attitude as a new escalation by the Egyptian press against Saudi Arabia. They have expressed astonishment that such insults are taking place with the full knowledge of the Egyptian authorities, which seem to turn a blind eye. They also expect that “matters will get worse” and that the tension in relations between the two countries will increase due to the decision by the Egyptian foreign ministry to maintain silence regarding these violations.
‘Go and perform pilgrimage to Ethiopia’
As part of this series of abuses, pro-regime journalist Jabir Al-Qarmuti said that the Gulf States (with an implicit hint here to Saudi Arabia) are now performing pilgrimage to Ethiopia just to provoke Egypt.
He added: “The Arab Gulf states want to perform pilgrimage to Ethiopia only to irritate Egypt.”
He added in his programme “Al-Qarmuti’s Headline”, broadcast on Al-Asimah Al-Jadidah TV channel yesterday evening: “You Arabs, if you wish to go on pilgrimage to Ethiopia just to enrage Egypt, you are free to do so, but let it be known to you that we are not crippled. If you did help us in the past, that was welcome. But it is time now for us to depend on ourselves.”
He hoped that relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia would return as they were in the past and also with Qatar. Yet, he said it is far-fetched for relations with Qatar to be fraternal, “but we may settle for amicable ones, and then we may organise a friendly match, and that would be it”.
On the other hand, Al-Maqal newspaper, edited by Ibrahim Eissa, said yesterday that “the formation of the Lebanese cabinet” is tantamount to “a second defeat for the Saudis”.
Lebanese report on suspension of ties between Egypt and Saudi
In the meantime, news reports have disclosed, quoting a diplomatic source, that the majority of agreements between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been precluded or delayed except for the projects linked to Al-Azhar, for these have almost completely been implemented.
The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted the source as saying that most of the investments that are backed by personalities close to Muhammad Bin Salman have been completely stopped in the aftermath of the suspension of oil supplies through the state owned Aramco. The source added that “the Saudi pressure will not force a change in the Egyptian position whether regarding the Syrian crisis or the Yemeni crisis and that Cairo will maintain communication with all parties without exception”.
Within a related context, the Saudi authorities yesterday imposed a temporary ban on the import of all peppers from Egypt.
The Saudi News Agency quoted the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture as saying that the decision came “after samples of these chillies were examined and found to be polluted with insecticide residues.”
On 9 April, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed 17 memorandum agreements covering several fields. This happened during the visit of King Salman made to Egypt. One of the agreements was about conceding Egyptian sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in favour of Saudi Arabia.
However, relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt suffered a severe crisis as a result of Egypt’s vote in favour of a Russian UN Security Council resolution rather than lending support to the Saudi stance. This incident raised doubts about the relationship between Riyadh and Cairo and was followed by a Saudi decision to stop oil supplies from Aramco to Egypt.
On its part, Egypt responded by threatening to resume relations with Iran, reports began circulating that Egyptian pilots were being sent to assist the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria and that secret talks were being conducted with the deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is fighting on the side of the Houthis against the forces of the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen.
Translated from Arabi21, 21 December 2016