After the “Al-Ula summit ”..What’s Next in Egyptian-Qatari Economic Relations?
Al-Ula summit or “The Summit of Current Challenges, Not Just the Future Ones,” as analysts described the 41st session of the Arab Gulf States Supreme Council summit, was held in the Saudi Al-Ula governorate.
As a page in the Gulf crisis turned, a new chapter of political, social and economic relations began.
The Al-Ula summit came about to announce the end of the dispute between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the one hand, and with Qatar on the other hand, returning relations to their previous state.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry affirmed that Egypt’s participation and signature of the statement are within the framework of its “constant keenness on solidarity among the countries of the Arab Quartet and its orientation towards a unity of ranks, eliminating any brotherly Arab countries’ defects, strengthening Arab action in the face of the region’s enormous challenges…which is what Egypt has always been doing. To build on this important step, in order to strengthen the Arab action march and support brotherly Arab countries relations based on goodwill relations and non-interference in the Arab countries’ internal affairs,”
After the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, signed the “Al-Ula Statement” during the Gulf summit, Egypt completed the Arab reconciliation in the middle of positive expectations on economic relations between Egypt and Qatar, especially after the Qatari Finance Minister’s visit to Cairo immediately after the summit, the first official Qatari visit to Egypt since the crisis outbreak in mid-2017.
Reproaching Iran and support of extremism were the most important reasons for severing ties with Qatar.
On June 5, 2017, Egypt announced it was severing relations with Qatar, accusing it of being close to Iran, and its support of extreme Islamic groups, which Doha denied. The relations severance was accompanied by economic measures including the closing of land borders and sea ports, preventing the use of air space, and imposing restrictions on Qatari financial transfers.
Major investments remained in place in light of the relations freeze
Official figures were incomplete regarding the volume of Qatari investments in Egypt in recent years. However, some of them appeared clearly, such as the two towers project of the Qatari Diar Company on the Nile of Cairo with a total of 515 hotel and residential units, in addition to Qatar Petroleum’s contribution through the Arab Refining Company with investments in the Egyptian company’s refinery project which produces 4.7 million tons of petroleum products annually, not to mention the National Bank of Qatar, which functions in the Egyptian market and is listed on the Egyptian Stock Exchange.
According to official data issued by the General Investment Authority in Egypt, the total investment of Qatari companies exceeded £7.2mn during the period from 1970 until early 2017.
After severing relations in 2017, Egypt put forward some proposals during the negotiations to resolve the crisis, including obtaining financial compensation for what Egypt considers “Qatar’s participation in supporting and financing terrorist activities carried out by groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically over the past three years,” and expelling the leaders of the “Brotherhood”.
A divergence of opinion prevails in Egyptian circles between supporters and opponents regarding the return of relations with Qatar. It seems that the Egyptian government has made the right decision, considering the continuation of the boycott is not in Cairo’s interest at any level, as the aviation and tourism sectors had incurred heavy losses. It also affected the labour market and money transfer activity and disrupted the large investment projects and deals the Egyptian state wanted to participate in with Qatar.
Qatar has quickly taken the initiative to restore its investment activity in Egypt upon its previous path. During his visit to Cairo, the Qatari Minister of Finance opened the St. Regis Hotel on the Cairo Nile Corniche, which the Qatari Diar Company owns. The project’s investments amount to more than £940mn. The hotel includes two towers with 515 units and a total area of 9360 square meters.
Egypt recently reopened their airspace for flights with Qatar and the resumption of flights between the two countries. At the same time, the file of economic understandings on a number of disrupted projects for Qatari companies in Egypt is waiting, amid negotiating to attract new Qatari investments, especially in light of the decline of Saudi and Emirati investments in the last year.