Thursday, 3 November 2016

Egyptian-Saudi relations

All life phenomena are relative and interpretable in many ways because the only absolute is God. And so, all that is human may have two or more faces and able to be supported or refuted in the same time. Consequently, relations between countries and societies are susceptible – since they are human phenomena – to all we mentioned above, including for example the relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as one act, if misunderstood, can lead to complicating the relations. In such regard, we have a local proverb that best describes such incident that says: “those who love you will let go anything bad you do, while those who hate you wish you make any mistake to judge you”.

And so, states are keen, through their institutions, to keep their mutual relations based on proper bases and as per the rules set by the sciences and experiences concerned with the international relations in general and regional ones in specific.

Let us be clearer and say that there is some kind of tension in the two states’ relations; meaning Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Although such tension, along with its degree and causes, was not declared yet, we can witness some of its signs. One of these signs was what the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation – a Saudi national – said. Also, the issue of having some oil shipments imported from the Saudi company of Aramco being delayed. Moreover, what the Egyptian foreign minister said in his interview with the Egyptian newspaper of Al Ahram regarding the two countries’ dispute over the Syrian crisis. The reason behind this dispute is that Egypt refuses the military solution and insists on the political one while Saudi Arabia is against this. This means that Saudi Arabia is inclusively pro the military solution and terrorism. Not to mention other matters declared in Mr. Makram Muhammed Ahmed’s article in Al Ahram recently in addition to a TV interview with him in one of the channels.

In my opinion, all the above mentioned incidents – which all smell tension – could have been interpreted and understood otherwise in a way that is more acceptable. Meaning that if we regarded Aramco as a company run by an administration, budget and bank accounts and which deals with its clients as per rules of business as usual, and a client of those was delayed in paying the required sums of money, then taking the appropriate measure as per the agreed-upon rules is understood, otherwise, it was be regarded as a breach of the common. In such way, this issue could be interpreted and that is actually what happened as the Egyptian exporter was late in paying the price of the shipments. Thus, we can read the whole matter away from political interpretation.

In such regard too, the other side has misunderstood what the president said when he was replying to one of the speakers, as he said “Egypt will never kneel down to anyone”. If these words were interpreted according to the context, such misunderstanding would have never been. However, we saw some articles of Saudi journalists reacting to the incident as if the president meant the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by his words.

Also, the Egyptian foreign minister or the cabinet spokesman could have clarified the statement where the name of the kingdom was mentioned in the minister’s interview in Al Ahram, to explain that connecting between Saudi Arabia and terrorists in Syria was not intentional, and that the context of the minister’s talking, before and after this statement, reveals mutual respect between the two countries.

As to Iyad Madani’s statement, it is utterly unacceptable. It could be regarded as an individual inappropriate trespassing of lines by him. However, reading the incident as a pre-set scenario; meaning that he meant to say what he said, is just a clear example of the local proverb we mentioned earlier.

In such regard, we should encourage all efforts exerted on both the official and non-official levels to tackle such tension, its cause, and how to alleviate it and make sure it does not happen again. On the official level, there are the official institutions in both countries starting from the leaderships; meaning the president and the king, and the concerned ministries and entities on all levels. As to the non-official level; the elite bunch, I here mean tens of businessmen, intellectuals, experts, journalists and artists; those regular guests in discussion rounds or seminars gathering the elite bunch of both countries, like that of the cultural saloon organized by the Saudi ambassador Mr. Ahmed Qattan, the man who keeps no effort in handling any rift between the two states. In doing so, the public relations and soft power can help assuage the official situation and diplomatic ties.

The situation in the region now, also for long coming time and amidst massive changes, cannot bear any rift – even if limited – between Egypt and its brother countries like Saudi Arabia and those of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Not because Egypt is in no need of them, as everyone is badly in need of the others, and needs here are many and not only limited to economic or financial ones. But because we are all facing a danger that threatens the very own existence of our societies; meaning our life and that of the coming generations.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on November 3, 2016.

To see the original article, go to:

#alahram #ahmed_elgammal #Egypt #saudi_arabia