Egypt’s president holds talks with visiting Qatari emir

CAIRO (AP) — President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt held talks Saturday with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who visited Cairo for the first time in years.

The talks focused on ties between the two nations and a set of other regional and global topics, including U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East in July, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidency.

Both leaders agreed to develop mutual cooperation, especially in the energy and agriculture sectors, and boost Qatari investments in Egypt, the statement said.

Al Thani arrived at the Itihadiya presidential palace in Cairo for talks with el-Sissi. Both leaders inspected an honor guard and bands played the national anthems of Egypt and Qatar, a livestream of the welcoming ceremony posted by the Egyptian presidency showed.

Egypt’s state-run al-Ahram daily reported that the talks aim at ensuring the “full normalization” of ties between the two nations after resuming their relations early in 2021.

Citing an unnamed source, the newspaper said the two countries would signed agreements to boost Qatari investments in Egypt’s battered economy.

During the visit, an Egyptian-Qatari business council met with the aim of improving trade and investments between the countries. Qatar announced in March the investment of $5 billion in Egypt’s economy, which was hit badly by the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea was in Doha last week for talks with Qatari officials on promoting trade and investment between the two nations. She met with Mansour bin Ibrahim Al-Mahmoud, head of the Qatar Investment Authority, to discuss its financing projects in Egypt, according to an Egyptian statement.

Energy-rich Qatar is a major source of investment in Egypt, focusing on the real state and oil sectors, including the building of a $1.3 billion luxury hotel on Cairo’s Nile Corniche. Qatar Petroleum also held a major stake in a $4.4 billion refining firm.

Qatari investment would be another lifeline for Egypt’s economy, which is under pressure amid an inflationary wave triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which hiked oil prices to record highs. Other Gulf monarchies have in recent months announced billions of aid and investments in Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world.

Al Thani landed in Cairo late Friday and was received by el-Sissi at the airport where they greeted each other with a handshake and cheek kisses on the tarmac. The Qatari leader departed the Egyptian capital later Saturday.

The visit, unthinkable just a few years ago, and the warm welcome showed the rapid improvement of ties between the two nations since the end of a boycott of Doha by four Arab states, including Egypt.

El-Sissi said it “consolidates the course of developing bilateral ties between the two nations in all fields in the coming period,” according to the statement.

The visit came ahead of Biden’s July 13-16 Middle East trip, which will include stops in Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia. Both el-Sissi and Al Thani will attend a Saudi Arabia-hosted summit with the American president. The summit will include the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq and Egypt.

Egypt’s ties with Qatar deteriorated in 2013 when el-Sissi, as defense minister, led the military’s overthrow of the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi after his short-lived divisive rule. Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, was backed by Qatar.

In 2017, Egypt joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in a boycott of Qatar in an effort to force Doha to change its policies.

The rift finally ended in 2021, when Qatar signed a declaration with the four to normalize relations. Since then, ties have improved, and top officials have exchanged visits.

The Egyptian president has since met twice with the emir of Qatar.

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