QATAR: Egypt gives Qatar the cold shoulder
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One could call it a cold-shoulder war.
With his decision not to show up at the Arab Summit in Doha, Qatar, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak furthered the ongoing mutual hostility between his country and the Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar.
“There won’t be any reconciliation between Qatar and Egypt soon,” wrote Ahmed Moussa, a staunch spokesman of Mubarak’s regime, in today’s issue of the semi-official Al Ahram daily. “Egypt sent a message to the Qataris and reduced the level of representation, which shows that Qatar should revise all its positions toward Egypt.”
It was announced Saturday that Mubarak would not attend the summit. But Egypt will be represented by a delegation headed by the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, Moufid Shehab.
Relations became seriously strained between Egypt and Qatar in the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza as the state-funded Qatari channel, Al Jazeera television, spearheaded a highly critical campaign against the Egyptian position.
While Al Jazeera implied that Egypt was implicated in the war, the Egyptian state-owned media accused Qatar of serving Iranian interests in the region.
Egypt objected to the participation of Qatar in the mini-summit that was held earlier this month in Riyadh to try to heal the rift between Egypt’s Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on the one hand and the Syrian President Bashar Assad on the other.
In the meantime, Egypt appears annoyed by Qatar’s attempts to project an image of being a key regional player of the same weight as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Recently, Qatar sought to enhance its image by mediating talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels, and by calling for an extraordinary summit in Doha during the Israeli war on Gaza to which the Iranian president was invited.
In both instances, Doha was seen as treading on the turf of the Egyptians by tackling issues that have always been of particular concern to Egypt.
“Egypt has a lot of reservations on the Qatari conduct, which became very apparent during the aggression on Gaza. It is not easy for the Egyptian people to forget about the humiliation of their symbols and their country by the campaigns orchestrated by officials from this small country [Qatar],” added Moussa.
The two-day annual summit, which will begin Monday, is expected to throw full support behind Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir against the International Criminal Court arrest warrant. To express further defiance of the court decision, Bashir arrived today in Doha and was received warmly by the Qatari prince at the Doha airport.
The summit also is expected to pursue Arab reconciliation talks aimed at uniting Arabs to counter Iran’s influence in the region. Earlier this month, a mini-summit was held in Riyadh with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
That summit marked the first meeting of those leaders. Mubarak’s boycotting of this summit might deal a blow to such talks.
-- Noha El-Hennawy in Doha, Qatar