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2-05-2012 - Gulfnews by Ramadan Al Sherbini

Saudi Arabia says recalls its ambassador from Egypt

Egyptian-Saudi relations Saturday suffered their worst crisis in decades after the oil-rich kingdom said it was closing its embassy in Cairo and recalling its ambassador following "hostile, unjustified" protests.

Upon learning of the Saudi decision, Egypt's military ruler field Marshal Hussain Tantawi contacted the Saudi leaders in an attempt to "contain the situation", reported the Egyptian official Middle East News Agency. It did not cite an immediate result from the contacts.

Egyptians have held angry protests outside the Saudi embassy and consulates for more than one week now after an Egyptian rights activist was arrested in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities said Ahmad Al Jizawi had been detained for attempting to smuggle more than 21,000 drug pills.

Saudi Arabia says recalls its ambassador from Egypt

Saudi Arabia says recalls its ambassador from Egypt, closes embassy and consulates after protests

By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent Published: 18:04 April 28, 2012

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Protest in Cairo

Image Credit: AFP Egyptians protest in front of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo in this file photo, calling for the release of Egyptians detained in the kingdom, including lawyer Ahmad Al Gazawi who was arrested on April 17.

Egyptian-Saudi relations Saturday suffered their worst crisis in decades after the oil-rich kingdom said it was closing its embassy in Cairo and recalling its ambassador following "hostile, unjustified" protests.

Upon learning of the Saudi decision, Egypt's military ruler field Marshal Hussain Tantawi contacted the Saudi leaders in an attempt to "contain the situation", reported the Egyptian official Middle East News Agency. It did not cite an immediate result from the contacts.

Egyptians have held angry protests outside the Saudi embassy and consulates for more than one week now after an Egyptian rights activist was arrested in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi authorities said Ahmad Al Jizawi had been detained for attempting to smuggle more than 21,000 drug pills.

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His family and rights advocates said Al Jizawi had been arrested upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia on April 17 for having criticized the Saudi king on an Egyptian TV show and filing a lawsuit for alleged detention of Egyptians working in the oil-rich kingdom.

Al Jizawi had been detained upon arrival for performing Umrah or a lesser pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, which is Islam's birthplace.

Egyptian and Saudi diplomats said that Al Jizawi had confessed to having attempted to smuggle the drugs, a confession which his family dismissed as fake or extracted under duress.

There are an estimated two million Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, which was a key ally of former president Hosni Mubarak who was toppled in a popular revolt in February last year.

Egyptians claim that they have been ill-treated in Saudi Arabia since the anti-Mubarak uprising, allegations denied by both Saudi and Egyptian officials.

Saudi state news agency SPA said Saturday the kingdom was also closing its consulates in several cities of Egypt, a move that would suspend the issuance of labour and pilgrimage entry visas. Saudi Arabia is a major investor in Egypt and imports Egyptian goods worth $1.5 billion annually, according to government figures.

There was no official comment from the Egyptian Foreign ministry on the Saudi decision.

However, a source in the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, expected the current Egyptian contacts to "dispel this passing cloud".

"The two countries share relations, which are so strong that they can overcome any obstacle," added the source.

However, Mahmoud Shukri, a former Egyptian diplomat, believes the Saudi move came as a prelude to an action against Al Jizawi.

"The Saudi authorities have taken the decision of closing the embassy and recalling its ambassador for anticipation of further public protests if they take a tough action against Al Jizaw," he added.

Following the Saudi decision, Egyptian authorities tightened security around the Saudi embassy for fear of fresh protests.

Dozens of Egyptians Friday protested outside the embassy, chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia and the military rulers in Egypt whom they accused of failing to "protect dignity" of Egyptian workers abroad.

 

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights