Egyptian president Morsy has made his first overseas trip since his election to Saudi Arabia. Morsy was warmly welcomed by the Saudi King and senior members of the royal family. It was also reported that the Saudis have offered Egypt an associate membership in the GCC.
Saudi Arabia has strong ties to the ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and has had a tense relationship with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Morsy’s political home. Earlier in the year, relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt deteriorated further with the recalling of ambassadors.
Saudi Arabia, has pledged $2.7 billion to support Egypt’s battered finances after the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
July 4, 2012
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
The fact that Morsy chose Saudi Arabia has the destination of his first overseas trip is highly significant. Whilst Saudi Arabia and most of the GCC have been highly critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing its spread into their territories, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest Arab, Sunni Muslim states. Although traditionally they have been rivals, from before the Egyptian revolution in 1951 to during the Egyptian support of the Yemen anti-royalist revolution in the 1960’s, relations were very close during the latter part of the Mubarak presidency, with both countries seen as the leading pro-Western Arab states.
With the new Egyptian regime, the warmth of the visit and the expressed desire of both sides to renew close collaboration, is a result of different geopolitical realities in the region. Saudi Arabia is facing an unprecedented risk from its Shiite minority in the Eastern Province as well as internal tensions between competing camps of conservatives versus liberals. Despite being uncomfortable with the Muslim Brotherhood, the outside risk that is seen as being supported by Iran and Russia, is perceived to be greater.
The keenness of the Egyptians to closer ties with Saudi Arabia is therefore a diplomatic victory for the Saudis, as the region forms a new set of alliances.