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Egypt Sisi seeks to tamp down media clash with Saudi Arabia

February 9, 2023 at 5:10 pm

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gives a speech in Cairo, Egypt. [Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images]

Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, sought on Thursday to play down a rare media spat with Saudi Arabia, which recently signalled greater conditionality over financial backing to allies such as Egypt, Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia, along with other energy-rich Gulf states, has long provided crucial funding to Egypt, upping support after Sisi took power nearly a decade ago, and as an acute financial crisis took hold last year.

The spat developed after two prominent Saudi commentators close to the Monarchy, Turki Al-Hamad, and Khalid Al-Dakhil, posted tweets in recent weeks criticising development failures since Egypt’s 1952 revolution and the dominant role of the military in the economy.

Their posts were subsequently deleted.

In an apparent riposte last week, Abdel Razek Tawfiq, Editor-in-Chief of Egyptian state-owned newspaper, Al Gomhuria, wrote an editorial arguing that the “barefooted” and newly-wealthy countries had no right to insult Egypt.

“The mean, the scoundrels and the nouveau-riche have no right to insult their masters,” he wrote, drawing on derogatory stereotypes and claims of historical superiority.

Support from ‘brothers’ 

During a visit to a food plant on Thursday, Sisi said: “If we can’t say something good, we should remain silent … We only write to improve and strengthen relations, not the opposite.”

He added: “We must also not forget the support our brothers have given us.”

Egypt secured a $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in December that entails structural economic reforms as well as an expectation of new financing and rollovers of debt from the Gulf.

Another well-known Saudi commentator, Ali Shihabi, later tweeted: “Egypt is a black hole that will never close unless the govt is able to make material structural reforms.”

Tawfik’s article has been removed from Al Gomhuria’s website and replaced by an editorial lauding Egyptian-Saudi relations as “historic and eternal”.

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