Egypt and Qatar agree to resume diplomatic ties, Cairo says

FILE PHOTO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace, France December 7, 2020. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is paying a state visit to France for talks on fighting terrorism, the conflict in Libya and other regional issues. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS


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CAIRO (Reuters) — Egypt and Qatar have agreed to resume diplomatic relations, the Egyptian foreign ministry said on Wednesday, making Cairo the first country to officially do so under an Arab deal to end a long-running dispute with Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt agreed earlier this month to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties severed in 2017 over allegations Qatar supported terrorism, a charge that Doha denies.

"The Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Qatar exchanged, today, January 20, 2021, two official memoranda, in virtue of which the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said the kingdom expects to reopen its embassy in Qatar within days, and full diplomatic relations between the two would resume.

The UAE, which followed Riyadh in reopening all entry points to Qatar, has said restoring diplomatic ties will take time. Bahrain has reopened its air space to Qatar, as has Egypt.

The U.S.-backed accord to end the row was one of a series of Middle East deals by former President Donald Trump's administration aimed at building a united front against Iran.

When the boycott was announced, Egypt and its allies called on Qatar to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other demands. Doha said the embargo aimed to curtail its sovereignty.

The Islamist group was outlawed in Egypt after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the overthrow of the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in 2013, before being elected president himself the following year.

Much of the Muslim Brotherhood's senior leadership was jailed in Egypt but other members took refuge abroad in Qatar or its regional ally Turkey.

Egypt and the UAE have also found themselves at odds with Turkey and Qatar in Libya, where they have backed opposing factions in a civil conflict.

Two Egyptian intelligence sources told Reuters on Wednesday that a Qatari foreign ministry official pledged in a meeting with Egyptian and Emirati security officials on Saturday that Qatar would not interfere in Egypt's internal affairs,

He also pledged a change of orientation for Qatar's Al Jazeera television channel, which is state-funded, and state-owned media outlets towards Cairo, the sources said.

A Qatari official on Thursday told Reuters that no such meeting had taken place and that diplomatic relations were restored "via written correspondence referencing the Al Ula Agreement" reached at the summit in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar's foreign minister had said in televised remarks after the Arab deal was announced that Al Jazeera is an independent media institution.

The Egyptian intelligence sources also said the officials agreed on economic cooperation and a series of meetings on outstanding issues such as Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The officials agreed to restore diplomatic relations between Egypt and Qatar "under probation," as one source put it.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021


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