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Leaked call between Sisi and minister reveals Saudi support for Qatar against Egypt

A leaked recording of a telephone call between Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his foreign minister has been broadcast by Mokamileen TV. It revealed the behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity in Egypt following the statement issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in defence of Qatar. The statement expressed Qatar's displeasure with the fact that the Egyptian Interior Ministry "mentioned its name" in connection with the bombing of a church in Cairo in December.

In the call between Al-Sisi and Sameh Shoukry, the foreign minister explained the premise of the GCC statement, noting that it was published three days later than planned, which reflected some official hesitation. However, Qatari pressure with Saudi Arabia's support was the ultimate reason for the issue of a "watered-down and balanced" version of the statement, claimed Shoukry.

The leak also confirmed the efforts of Kuwait's Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to diffuse the tension between Cairo and Riyadh. This first surfaced in October after Egypt voted in favour of a Russian resolution on Syria, to which Saudi Arabia was firmly opposed.

Shoukry told Al-Sisi that he called the Kuwait and Bahrain foreign ministers and they both said that they were embarrassed, but explained that they intervened in order for a watered-down and more balanced version of the statement to be issued. They also, apparently, said that they were forced to agree to the statement in order to preserve Gulf solidarity and unity.

"The Qataris pushed for the statement to be issued," Shoukry explained, "and the Saudis perhaps used this as a means to continue tension with us [Egypt]. The rest of the more moderate countries resisted, but at the same time, in order to preserve Gulf solidarity and the general atmosphere, they went along with this version of the statement considering it to be more moderate."

He suggested that Egypt's foreign ministry should issue a moderate statement in response, the draft of which he read to Al-Sisi who, in turn, approved it.

The Egyptian interior ministry issued a statement on 12 December 2016 accusing members of the Muslim Brotherhood of being involved in the Petrine Church bombing. The ministry also said that an Egyptian doctor named Muhab Qasim planned the operation and accused him of receiving orders as well as logistical and financial support from Brotherhood leaders in Qatar in order to destabilise Egypt, cause sedition and divide the national ranks.

Qatar responded to this by expressing its rejection of the linking of its name with a terrorist act simply on the basis that the suspect had visited Doha in 2015. It confirmed that Qasim entered Qatar via regular legal procedures, like hundreds of thousands of others who are permitted to enter for work or visit purposes.

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AfricaEgyptMiddle EastNewsQatarSaudi Arabia
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