As you read this article, the Saudi ambassador to Egypt will have returned to perform his duties and the Saudi diplomatic missions will have gone back to the Saudi consulates in Alexandria and Suez a few days after Riyadh summoned the ambassador for consultation over the situation in Egypt.
The ambassador might have come on the same plane that carried back a delegation of senior Egyptian officials, headed by the Egyptian parliament speaker, who visited the kingdom. Members of the delegation managed to contain the crisis which started with the arrest of an Egyptian lawyer at the Jeddah Airport on charges of drug possession.
Some took advantage of this incident to protest in front of the Saudi embassy and engage in acts of vandalism. In fact, the attempt to create a rift between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has yielded the opposite results to the disappointment of those who started the escalation and wanted to sour relations between the Arab world’s two most important countries.
“Common history is not a page that can be turned and nobody can ever tamper with that.”
“The ties between the Saudi and Egyptian people are too strong to be affected by such a casual incident.”
But this incident will not be the last. Egypt is going through exceptional circumstances whether on the level of the people or the media. It is a state that is more like chaos than labor and nobody is able to predict when things will settle down and when the state will restore its power as becomes a country of Egypt’s influence and history.
While this article was being written, more than 100 got injured in last Friday’s protests and chaos is mounting.
True there are theories that this division between Saudi and Egypt was planned by a foreign power that wanted to saw the seeds of sedition between the two countries. Yet, we cannot just keep blaming foreign powers and stop at that. The circumstances in Egypt are not normal and several parties would want to take advantage of the situation. Escalation can also be the result of the psychological state of the people and the stressful stage they are currently living.
However, the return of the Saudi ambassador and diplomatic missions will require a new working strategy that suits the coming stage and that outlines the future of the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This will require detecting the first signals of an imminent crisis, correcting misconceptions, and facing parties that spread rumors.
There is no doubt that Saudi ambassador to Cairo Ahmed Qattan dealt with the crisis in the wisest manner possible. But the critical situation in Egypt necessitates more efforts on a more untraditional and even unofficial scale and that should encompass media outlets and influential political powers.
The extinction of a fire is hard and costly, for it always leave us with losses and deformities. That is why what is easier and less damaging is the elimination of the first sparks that cause the fire.
The writer is the Head of Media at Al Arabiya. The article was first published in al-Jazirah on May 6, 2012 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid