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Khashoggi's assassination forces Arab Quartet to make critical concessions

Flag of Saudi Arabia waves in front of the Saudi consulate as the waiting continues on the investigation of killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey on 6 November, 2018 [Elif Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]
Flag of Saudi Arabia waves in front of the Saudi consulate as the waiting continues on the investigation of killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey on 6 November, 2018 [Elif Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

According to well-informed Egyptian sources, there would be changes in the regional scene and concessions that would be made by prominent Arab capitals to contain the repercussions of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

An Egyptian government official revealed that Cairo’s support for Saudi Arabia’s stance on the assassination of Khashoggi was an attempt to support Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, regardless of the credibility of the Saudi version of the assassination incident, inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The source said that the first statement the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had issued, in which it condemned the attempt to politicise the case, was issued based on “Saudi Arabia’s request” to Cairo.

The source added that a Saudi official (not named), who is believed to be the Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, asked his Egyptian counterpart in a telephone conversation to support the Kingdom’s position in the case, and stand by its side in the face of what he called “manipulations of Turkish President Erdogan.”

The second Egyptian statement came a few days later to keep abreast of the developments, after Riyadh officially admitted the assassination of Khashoggi, and brought senior officials to trial.

Read: Trump does not want to hear tape of ‘vicious’ Khashoggi murder

According to the source, who asked not to be named, Cairo fears the political cost Khashoggi’s killing would result and the level of official Saudi involvement in the assassination, which will affect regional matters that are being coordinated between Riyadh, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi,

Another well-informed Egyptian official about the Egyptian-Saudi relations matter said that Cairo is now mostly concerned about the fate of the Arab Quartet, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, and which has been imposing a blockade on Qatar for the second consecutive year.

Egyptian officials held consultations with their counterparts in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, all of which ended up, according to Cairo, by the conclusion that Riyadh has an intention to make some concessions to Doha, according to Mada Masr online newspaper.

The first source mentioned some of the behind scenes of the US-Saudi talks to contain the consequences of Khashoggi’s assassination. He said: “This is being done at the request of the US Secretary of State to the senior officials who met with him during his visit to Riyadh in the early days of the crisis. We have learned that he informed King Salman that the time has come to ease all forms of tension in the Gulf region and improve relations to build a strong Arab Sunni alliance which could face Iran.”

People protest outside the White House in Washington on 19 November 2018 [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

People protest outside the White House in Washington on 19 November 2018
[Win McNamee/Getty Images]

During the visit of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, to Saudi Arabia last week, King Salman informed him that everyone would have to consider the requirements of the current situation and perhaps surrender to the storm.

Cairo has information about some meetings that have been held between security officials from the UAE and Qatar in the presence of their counterparts from Western countries to consider some matters.

According to the source, the visit of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Bahrain a week ago, and his reaffirmation of the Quartet’s holding on to the positions towards Qatar is nothing but an expression of Cairo refusal to ease the tensions with Doha. However, it is currently facing a scenario that would end up with the dissolution of the Arab Quartet.

The repercussions of Khashoggi’s assassination extend to the level of an Egyptian-Emirati’s acceptance of the role of Islamists in Libya, as well as the avoidance of excluding the Al-Islah Party (Yamani Muslim Brotherhood) from the political equation, which was manifested a few days ago in bin Zayed’s meeting with the party’s representatives under US pressures.

The source believes that the space of political Islam in the arrangements of Libya and Yemen and perhaps even in Syria is more likely to increase, given bin Salman’s need to enter a stage of regional adjustments that requires concessions in several matters.

Cairo is willing to decrease the cost it will pay in terms of internal politics because of the rise of Democrats in the US Congress, and to ensure that any regional political deal that Saudi Arabia will offer to overcome Khashoggi’s crisis will not include any pressure on Cairo’s internal affairs.

The Saudi trouble is growing after an investigation conducted by the US Central Intelligence Agency that revealed that bin Salman himself ordered to assassinate Khashoggi, amid expectations of the imposition of US sanctions on Riyadh.

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