What to expect from the Egyptian president’s visit to Qatar?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is set to visit Qatar on Tuesday, his first trip to Doha since the 2017 regional crisis.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is set to visit Qatar on September 12, 2022, his first to the Gulf state since the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis that isolated Qatar from the rest of the region [Christian Mang/Reuters/File Photo]

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is set to visit Qatar on Tuesday, his first trip to the Gulf state since 2017, when three Gulf states along with Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.

El-Sisi is scheduled to meet Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during his two-day trip, which comes nearly three months after the two leaders held talks in Cairo aimed at promoting relations between the two countries.

Egypt and Qatar restored diplomatic ties in January 2021 following the signing of a reconciliation agreement in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. Aside from Sheikh Tamim’s June trip to Cairo, the two leaders have also met on the sidelines of summits this year.

Qatar Gulf reconciliation
Leaders from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and the secretary-general of the GCC at a summit in the northwestern Saudi city of Al-Ula on January 5, 2021 [File: Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AFP]

Discussions on bilateral ties are expected to take place, including rectifying a tumultuous relationship and investment opportunities.

Rebuilding a tumultuous relationship

In 2017, Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, after accusing Doha of interfering in their internal affairs and supporting “terrorism” in the region. Doha denied these claims, and, in turn, accused the same states of economically and politically besieging Qatar.

After diplomatic ties were restored last year, Qatar and Egypt have engaged in mutual visits and bilateral agreements. This has included taking diplomatic steps that saw the mutual appointment of ambassadors and the operation of direct flights between Egypt and Qatar for the first time since 2017.

When Israel attacked Gaza in August, both Egypt and Qatar were quick to broker a ceasefire following a three-day deadly offensive by Israel.

In June, according to the Egyptian presidency, the Qatari emir also “praised Egypt’s ongoing efforts on reconstruction in the Gaza Strip”. Doha and Cairo – key United States allies in the Middle East – have both provided reconstruction aid to the besieged territory and have been involved with mediation efforts between Israel and Gaza’s administrators, Hamas.

Economic investment

The Russian war on Ukraine has deepened Egypt’s food crisis as it affected global food prices and wheat exports.

Egypt has been hard hit by the repercussions of the war: it is among the world’s largest importers of wheat, with approximately 80 percent of its supply coming from Russia and Ukraine last year. According to World Bank figures, inflation in Egypt spiked to around 9 percent in February, an increase attributed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Around 350,000 Egyptians work in Qatar and send hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances home annually.

Scrambling to boost its economy, Egypt inked investment agreements worth $5bn during a visit by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani to Cairo in March.

Hydrocarbon giant QatarEnergy announced an agreement with US major ExxonMobil to acquire a 40-percent stake in a gas exploration block off Egypt in the Mediterranean.

Observers say that the $5bn to be invested by Qatar in the coming years will contribute to Egypt’s economic development, boost job creation there, and encourage Qatari private investment in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies