Foreign relations testing Egypt and Saudi Arabia's friendship

Foreign relations testing Egypt and Saudi Arabia's friendship
2 min read
12 Oct, 2016
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran appear to have soured with Cairo announcing it found urgently needed oil supplies. It follows Riyadh's decision to halt exports on credit to Egypt.
Relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are growing frosty [Anadolu]

Egypt has secured desperately needed fuel imports needed to make up a shortfall following Saudi Arabia's decision to abruptly end easy credit shipments of oil to Cairo.

The move could be enough to avoid a potentially disastrous fuel shortage for Egypt. This comes amid growing economic concerns in the country and talk of an imminent cabinet reshuffle to deal with the crisis.

The recent spat has escalated following apparent disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, chiefly over foreign policy issues.

Riyadh is said to be furious by Egypt's decision to vote for a Russian ceasefire agreement - along with a rival French one - which would allow Moscow to continue its bombing of Aleppo and Saudi-backed Syrian rebel fighters.

Saudi Arabia appears to feel betrayed due to Cairo's strengthening relationship with Russia and Riyadh's regional nemesis Iran.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been providing critically needed financial and political aid to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's regime since 2013.

In April, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide Egypt with 700,000 tons of fuel monthly for five years on easy repayment terms.

This week, Egyptian officials said that Saudi Arabia's Aramco - the world's largest oil company - informed Cairo it would not ship any fuel to the country this month.

Oil Ministry Spokesman Hamdi Abdel-Aziz was quoted by Egyptian newspapers saying that several fuel shipments from other suppliers have arrived in Egypt after a desperate call for tenders on Tuesday.

There has been no official word from Saudi Arabia on the abrupt halt of shipments. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is moving closer to Turkey, which Egypt accuses of backing rebels trying to overthrow the Cairo government. 

Riyadh has mended ties with Qatar who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, the key opponent of Sisi in Egypt.

Saudi Arabia also appears to be angered that Egyptian troops promised by Sisi to the Riyadh-led anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen have never arrived.

In fact, Egyptian officials and representatives of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have held meetings. Meanwhile, Cairo holds good relations with the Iraqi government, which has close ties to Tehran. 

One signal that Egyptians themselves are growing unhappy with relations with the country's more powerful eastern neighbour was a decision by Sisi to hand over two key Red Sea islands to Riyadh earlier this year.

While the government appears determined to see the deal through, it has greatly embarrassed Egyptians and led to greater criticism of Sisi from all sides of the political spectrum. Without international backing, his position would look increasingly vulnerable.

Agencies contributed to this story.