US Unfreezes Egypt Ties, Egypt Eyes Qatar Reconciliation

US sends Apache helicopters originally frozen and new ambassador; Sisi meets with Hamas-backer Qatar signalling rapprochement.

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Ari Yashar,

Apache helicopter releases flares
Apache helicopter releases flares
Ofer Zidon/Flash 90

On two different fronts Egypt made military and political gains on Saturday, with news that America unfroze a previous deal delivering ten Apache attack helicopters and sending an ambassador to Cairo, and that Egypt's ties with its traditional rival Qatar were advanced.

The delivery of the Apaches was announced Saturday by security sources, after the US back in April unfroze military deals with the Nile state. The freeze was initiated after the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi last July 3 and the subsequent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members.

That decision in April to unfreeze military deals also had an element of competition to it, as Egypt in February sealed a $2 billion arms deal with Russia. Russia in November said Egypt offered to buy advanced defense systems, military helicopters, MiG-29 aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

In September the US promised to send the attack helicopters built by Boeing Co. so as to aid Egypt's counter-terrorism efforts in the Sinai, reports Reuters.

Another sign of rapprochement was seen as the US returned an ambassador to Cairo last Thursday, with Stephen Beecroft assuming his post. The last ambassador was withdrawn over a year ago following Morsi's ouster.

Becoming allies with Hamas backers?

The US wasn't the only front Egypt was making advances on - according to Al Arabiya, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met a top envoy from Qatar on Saturday as part of a reconciliation effort backed by Saudi Arabia.

Egypt and Qatar have been at odds over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood; Qatar has likewise been a key source of backing and funds for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood's Gaza-based offshoot.

The Qatari envoy, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdelrahman al-Thani, met with Sisi marking the first time an envoy from Qatar met with Sisi since he took power last summer. The head of the Saudi Royal Court, Khalid al-Tuwaijri, was also in attendance.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has expressed its welcome regarding ongoing steps that will strengthen relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Qatar, including the visit made by Special Envoy of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdelrahman Al Thani to Egypt," read a Saudi Royal Court statement.

"Saudi Arabia stressed its support and keenness on opening a new page between the two countries for enhancing integration and cooperation between the two countries to achieve higher interests of the Arab and Islamic nations, hoping of all honorable scientists, intellectuals, writers and men of the media outlets responding and supporting this step," it added.

Meanwhile Egypt said it looked “forward to a new era that ends past disagreements," in a statement from Sisi's office.

In October and November Egypt held its largest army maneuver yet, with a senior security expert assessing that the nation still views Israel as its prime threat and held the maneuver as preparations for a potential war with Israel, regardless of the peace treaty.

That position vis-a-vis Israel was on display Saturday as Egypt pledged support for a Palestinian Authority (PA) resolution at the UN to unilaterally demand an Israeli withdrawal by 2017 from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.