Egypt has welcomed the decision of three Gulf states to withdraw their envoys to Qatar and said its own ambassador “will not return” to the Gulf emirate.
The unprecedented decision this week by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates was seen as closely linked to Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military in July.
In a statement posted online late Thursday, the Egyptian government said it hoped the withdrawal of the envoys would mark “the beginning of a correction of the course taken by the Qatari government, which is contrary to our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council”.
“The Egyptian ambassador to Doha, who has been in Cairo since the beginning of February, will not return to Qatar at the present time, and his remaining (in Egypt) is a sovereign political decision,” the government said.
“It is for Qatar to clearly determine its position, whether it will stand on the side of Arab solidarity, unified ranks and protection of national security… or on the other side, and bear the consequences and responsibility for that.”
Relations between Egypt and Qatar have deteriorated as Cairo has carried out a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which it has labelled a terrorist organisation and blamed for a spate of bombings and other attacks.
The Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago, has denied any involvement.
Several Brotherhood leaders, and allied Islamists, fled to Doha following Morsi’s ouster last July 3. Some are wanted for trial in Egypt.
The conservative Gulf monarchies have long viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat because of its grass-roots political advocacy and calls for Islamic governance, and most Gulf states welcomed the military’s ouster of Morsi, pledging billions in aid.
Qatar, however, was a staunch ally of Morsi and has supported other branches of the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere in the region, including the Palestinian Hamas movement ruling Gaza.
The Gulf Cooperation Council groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.