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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cairo, Doha mend ties after Al-Jazeera suspends Egypt coverage

 The Qatari-owned al-Jazeera network has suspended its Egyptian channel, whose coverage angered Egypt's government. 

As part of Saudi efforts to broker an end to the 18-month standoff over Doha's support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian and Qatari intelligence officials met in Cairo to discuss a possible reconciliation, two days after the Doha-based Al-Jazeera satellite station shut down its Egypt channel.
Security sources said Qatar's intelligence chief, Ahmed Nasser Bin Jassim al-Thani, discussed plans for a meeting between the Egyptian and Qatari heads of state in Riyadh next month.
While Gulf countries agreed to normalize ties with Qatar, Cairo has yet to follow.
Gulf Arab countries agreed in November to end an eight-month dispute with Qatar over its promotion of "Arab Spring" revolts and support of Islamist groups.
Saudi Arabia, which has showered Egypt's government with billions of dollars in aid over the past year-and-a-half, has pushed for a similar rapprochement between Qatar and Egypt.
Qatar was a backer of elected Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ties between the two countries deteriorated after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mursi last year and cracked down on the Brotherhood.
To Egypt's irritation, Qatar sheltered exiled Brotherhood leaders, including influential Egypt-born preacher and spiritual guide of the Brotherhood, Yousef al-Qaradawi.
Qaradawi regularly launches tirades against Egypt's authorities since the army ousted Mursi. He is named as a defendant in several trials along with many Brotherhood members, including one which has Mursi as a co-defendant.
Egypt, alongside Saudi Arabia and the UAE, list the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and consider it a threat to their ruling systems.
The two Gulf countries, as well as Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, are members of the US-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington, in partnership with its Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria and Libya.
Al-Jazeera shuts down Egypt-dedicated channel
Qatar's Al-Jazeera network said Monday it was "temporarily" closing its Egypt-dedicated channel, accused of bias towards the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a day after the Gulf state pledged support for Cairo.
Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr has "temporarily ceased broadcasting until such time as necessary permits are issued for its return to Cairo in coordination with the Egyptian authorities," the Doha-based network said on its website.
However, the live channel will not return in its Egypt-specific identity as it will be merged with another live station to form Al-Jazeera Mubasher Al-Amma (General), the network said.
The announcement came a day after the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said "the security of Egypt is important for the security of Qatar," and two days after Sisi – now president – met al-Thani's special envoy.
The pan-Arab news broadcaster has been strongly criticized in Egypt over coverage seen as favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Three Al-Jazeera journalists, award-winning Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, were sentenced to seven years in jail by a Cairo court, accused of supporting the blacklisted Brotherhood, in a verdict condemned worldwide.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday that Greste’s case was being handled by “high-ranked Egyptian officials” and that the journalist might get released before the end of the year.
(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
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