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Egypt sends envoy to Gulf summit amid apparent thaw with Qatar

by Reuters
Tuesday, 5 January 2021 18:14 GMT

(Adds foreign ministry statement)

By Aidan Lewis

CAIRO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Egypt sent its foreign minister to a summit of Gulf Arab leaders on Tuesday that produced a pledge towards ending a regional dispute with Qatar, while Qatar's finance minister made a rare trip to Cairo.

Egypt joined Gulf allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in severing diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in 2017 over allegations it supports terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry flew to the Gulf summit in al-Ula in Saudi Arabia where the Saudi foreign minister said the four nations had agreed to end the boycott.

Egypt's foreign ministry said Shoukry had signed the "al-Ula declaration on Arab reconciliation", but gave no confirmation that it would restore ties.

The Egyptian presidency and foreign ministry have recently softened their tone on the regional dispute, expressing support for reconciliation.

But they also said any deal should carry commitments to "non-interference in internal affairs, confronting all threats to the security and stability of Arab countries and peoples, and preserving Arab national security".

In Cairo, Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi arrived on a private flight from Doha to attend the inauguration of a luxury hotel developed by Qatari Diar, sources at Cairo airport and Qatari embassy officials said.

The completed Nile-side St Regis hotel had long stood idle during the blockade, but it was unclear if the timing of the trip was linked to any wider detente.

When the boycott was announced, Egypt and its allies called on Qatar to cut ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other demands.

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

Much of the group'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 earlier this week that Egypt was still insisting that Doha cut support for Muslim Brotherhood leaders abroad in return for the restoration of ties with Qatar. (Additional reporting by Abdel Nasser Aboul el-Fadl and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Catherine Evans, William Maclean)

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