Egypt’s Foreign Ministry released a statement to extend formal condolences to the Qatari state on Monday after former Emir Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani died.
Khalifa, who passed away at the age of 84, ascended to power in 1972 and ruled until 1995, when he was deposed by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and driven into exile. Khalifa lived in France until 2004, when he returned to the Gulf country. He is the grandfather of Qatar’s current ruler Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry praised Khalifa’s rule, saying he oversaw an unprecedented modernization process in Qatar, supported Arab nationalism and contributed to the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), while fashioning Qatar into an international exemplar in the oil and gas industry.
The ministry also stated that Egypt and Qatar’s relationship developed in several areas during Khalifa’s reign in what it called a necessity to preserve the common interests of their respective citizenries.
Egypt and Qatar’s relationship has been turbulent since the Egyptian Armed Forces ousted former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Qatar was a diplomatic and economic ally of Morsi’s government. The country offered safe haven to many Muslim Brotherhood leaders after Egypt began a violent crackdown on the organization.
Despite the tension, the two countries have grown marginally closer in the past few years. In April 2015, the Qatari ambassador to Cairo was redeployed, despite several foreign policy disagreements, notably over Libya.
Late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdel Azizi encouraged the rapprochement in November 2015 by proposing a peace initiative to Egypt and Qatar within the context of the “the Riyadh agreement,” an attempt to rectify the relationship between Qatar and other Gulf states.
Several acts of good faith followed the proposal, with Qatar expelling seven Muslim Brotherhood members from the country and closing Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr, which the Egyptian government had considered to be hostile to its interests.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s statement comes at a time of tension with Saudi Arabia that was prompted by Egypt’s vote in favor of a Russian resolution on Syria in the United Nations Security Council. The Gulf country opposes Russian actions in Syria and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Following the UN Security Council vote, Syria’s National Security Bureau head Ali al-Mamlouk visited Cairo and met with a contingent of senior Egyptian security officials, a move that many observers said would cause further tension with Saudi Arabia.