GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
In Quest of Equilibrium and Stability in the Arab System: The Egyptian-Saudi Rapprochement
Paper Proposal Text :
Traditionally, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have constituted the two key players in the Arab system, occasionally vying for hegemony, but for the most part cooperating to achieve the same goals. In April 2012, however, the Saudis closed their embassy in Cairo in response to Egyptian protests in front of the embassy against the detention of an Egyptian lawyer in Saudi Arabia. Later that year, the relations between the two countries deteriorated further following the June 2012 election to president of Muhammad Mursi, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, due to the political and ideological differences between the Saudi Wahhabi-led dynasty and the Muslim Brotherhood. A mere two years later, on 8 September 2014,Saudi Foreign Minister Sa‘ud al-Faysal inaugurated in Cairo what is considered to be the largest Saudi embassy in the world, and on the following day, al-Azhar Institute bestowed an honorary doctorate upon the late Saudi King ‘Abdallah. The opening of the new embassy is not merely a symbolic act but a true manifestation of the warmth in Egyptian-Saudi relations, triggered by Mursi’s removal from power (July 2013) and ‘Abd al-Fattah Sisi’s election (June 2014). The political and economic rapprochement was buttressed by mutual interests vis-à-vis Iran and the region’s Shi’ite challenge, their mutual desire to contain the Jihadist threats in Syria and Iraq and to find a solution to the Palestinian problem. These mutual interests led the GCC countries to pledge USD$ 12 million in financial aid to Egypt (of which 7 has already been received). A major indication of the resurrected relationship is that Egyptian-Saudi commercial trade is expected to reach the staggering figure of $9.6 billion in two years. Saudi pressure and regional changes in the post-Arab Spring period also convinced Qatar to mend fences with Sisi’s new regime. The aim of this paper is to place the recent Egyptian-Saudi rapprochement in historical perspective. Its main argument is that the quest for hegemony in the Arab world – as manifested in the policies of ‘Abd al-Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s and Saddam Husyan in the 1980s and 1990s – has been replaced by a quest for equilibrium and stability.