Saudi Arabia's King Salman meets with Egypt's President Sisi on the sideline of the 28th Arab Summit at the Dead Sea, Jordan on March 29, 2017. (Reuters photo)
CAIRO, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The recently-held Arab summit in Jordan represents a chance for warmer ties between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that have gone through ups and downs due to their different visions on various issues including the Syrian crisis, the war in Yemen and others, said political experts.
A lot of efforts have been made by Jordan and other states to prepare for the summit as a meeting point for Arab leaders with different positions on various key issues.
The summit successfully provided a chance for them to convene and attempt to reach a common ground and overcome their difference, as in the case of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and King of Saudi of Arabia, Salman bin Abdulazia Al Saud.
"The Arab summit itself is a chance for meetings among Arab leaders, but it is not the basic factor for changing their political positions or policies or resolving the big crises in the Arab world," said Motaz Salama, researcher and head of the Gulf Studies Unit at Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
He explained that the meeting between Sisi and King Salman has been preceded by a lot of efforts made by Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein as well as efforts from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to bridge the gap between Cairo and Riyadh.
Following Sisi-Salman talks in Jordan, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement on Wednesday that both leaders exchanged visit invitations that were accepted by both.
Later on Thursday, Saudi Ambassador to Cairo Ahmed Qattan welcomed President Sisi's coming visit to the kingdom in April at the invitation of the Saudi monarch, saying "it is going to be a successful visit."
Omar al-Hassan, head of the Cairo-based Gulf Center for Strategic Studies, described the summit in Jordan as "the summit of agreement and accord," expecting Sisi's coming visit to Riyadh "to remove many of the obstacles facing the Egyptian-Saudi relations."
SYRIA, YEMEN CRISES
The first sign of unharmonious ties between Cairo and Riyadh appeared after Egypt voted in October 2016 for two rival draft resolutions at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a relief in Syria, including one proposed by Russia, whose military is currently assisting Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria.
Although Egypt later explained that its support for both the Russian and the French-Spanish draft resolutions were based on their contents in favor of calm in Syria, and despite the fact that the UNSC disapproved both, the Egyptian position was criticized by Saudi representative to the UN as "painful."
The vote issue came several months after the Saudi king's visit to Egypt in April 2016, after which Sisi announced a demarcation agreement to deliver two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia as their rightful owner, a decision that has been met by a large debate in Egypt that ended up with protests and a court disapproval.
"I believe that Syria and Yemen are not the core of Saudi-Egyptian differences, but there have poor communication between the institutions of both countries after Salman's visit to Cairo last year. Besides, there may have been other parties involved to drive a wedge between the two states," Salama told Xinhua.
Salama explained that when the Saudi representative at the UN criticized Egypt's position, "it was only meant to announce the disagreement between the two countries that has already been there."
After disagreement on Syria is crystallized, the oil shipments of a Saudi national company, Aramco, to Egypt has been halted for six months until the Egyptian side announced in mid-March that the company will resume its oil shipments soon.
For his part, Hassan of the Gulf Center said that there is no disagreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on a political solution for the Syrian crisis, but the main disagreement is about the future of Assad in the political settlement.
"While Egypt calls for a political solution in Syria with or without Assad, Saudi Arabia sees that a political solution with Assad remaining in Syria is not a settlement," Hassan told Xinhua, adding "I personally agree with the Egyptian vision because the priority is to end the suffering of the Syrian people not to remove the head of the regime."
The expert believes that there is no disagreement between Cairo and Riyadh on the Yemeni issue as Egypt's naval forces are still carrying out their duties of protecting the Red Sea's Bab al-Mandab Strait.
In the final communique of the Arab summit in Jordan, the Arab leaders stressed that they will intensify efforts to reach a political solution for the Syrian crisis and reiterated support for the Saudi-led alliance to support the legitimate leadership of Yemen against the Houthi rebels, calling for ending the crisis via dialogue.
Some experts believe that strategic partnership between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has not been translated into a reality on the ground through political, economic and security cooperation.
"In reality, there are no clear practical indicators of such strategic relations in terms of political agreement, economic partnership or close visions on national security issues," said Salama.
He argued that Saudi relations with fellow Gulf States or even with Western states, like the United States and Britain, are much stronger than those with Egypt.
"It is so necessary for both countries to get closer because the Middle East is heading toward big changes that may reshape regional alliances and restructure regional system, as they may involve non-Arab players such as Turkey, Iran and Israel," Salama told Xinhua.
Saudi Arabia led Gulf states, excluding Qatar, in supporting the Egyptian administration with billions of U.S. dollars and tons of oil supplies following the military removal of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and the consequent crackdown on his now-blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group.
Hassan expects that the Sisi-Salman meeting in Jordan and the Egyptian president's coming visit to Saudi Arabia will greatly help warm the ties between the two key regional players.
"I believe differences will be properly and adequately resolved through the meeting and the joint committees that have already started to work on finding the core differences and settling them. I believe Egypt-Saudi ties are going in the right direction," Hassan told Xinhua.