Qatar and Egypt at the Arab Summit

Said Shehata , Monday 31 Mar 2014

The Arab Summit, held in Kuwait 25-26 March, ended with some success. But key issues — especially Qatari-Egyptian relations, and Syria — did not witness progress

It is a shame to lose the opportunity resolve issues like Egyptian-Qatari relations and the Syrian crisis in light of the diplomatic efforts by the prince of Kuwait.

The division between Qatar and Egypt was clear in the speeches of both the prince of Qatar and the Egyptian president. While the first accused some countries of failing to achieve their national unity and those countries blamed others for "supporting terrorism," on the other side the Egyptian president called on those countries to stop supporting people who have been carrying weapons against their own people. It is a huge gap between the two sides and it does not look to be bridgeable soon.

This dispute was overlooked on the formal level during the Arab Summit, but was discussed in the corridors. Both countries are Arabs and they need to sort out this dilemma to be united for the sake of Arab unity, which is a condition to solve several other problems.

For Qatar, it needs to rethink its role in the region. Its massive support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt should be reconsidered. In addition, its financial and military backing of some elements of militant groups in Syria should be reviewed. Moreover, its wishes to be the leading player in the region should be toned down, to be more realistic.

For Egypt, authorities should not exclude the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole. Whoever committed a crime and violent act should be punished according to the law. But it is a mission impossible to exclude and get rid of all the Brotherhood. The Egyptian authorities could win the battle and the war if they play it smartly. The security approach is necessary but not enough. There are some jihadists and radicals who should be put before trial, but the roots of radicalism and violence should be tackled according to a comprehensive paradigm and not solely on security measures.

I recently talked with a leading politician in Egypt who is part of the current regime and I explained to him the shortcomings and dangers of the security approach followed by the authorities. He agreed and promised to be the voice of wisdom to tackle the current crisis in Egypt. A comprehensive approach includes intellectual, educational, economic as well as security elements. Al-Azhar should issue a manifesto or a document about jihad in Islam in order to prevent radicals using verses from the Quran in their killings and violence. This document should be highlighted in all media outlets and educational syllabi.

There is a need to educate people in mosques about jihad, especially in Friday sermons. In addition, the economy should start moving forward because poverty has been on the rise. Ordinary and poor Egyptians have been patient and they need to see concrete results. This might not happen soon, but they are desperate to see the light, and the economic vision of whoever is going to be president.

Egypt cannot achieve progress without restoring tourism and foreign direct investment. If military and police operations continue, overlooking the other elements, there will be more unrest and instability.

Every Egyptian wants and dreams of a better future, with Egypt as a leading player on the regional and international levels. Furthermore, Egypt should deal with Qatar through honest mediators, such as Kuwait, in order that differences are ironed out.

The Arab Summit succeeded in getting all Arabs around the table and the restructuring of the Arab League will be discussed in detail during the Arab foreign ministers meeting in September, in order to reactivate its role. However, the main differences need more time to be tackled.

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