The Emir of the State of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thanni, will be the second leader from a Gulf state in a political dispute with Egypt to visit Ethiopia in the last few months. The Emir will pay a two-day visit to Ethiopia from April 10 to 11, 2017.
High-level officials from Saudi Arabia, which also has a political disagreement with Egypt over conflicts in Syria and Yemen, had visited Ethiopia.
In November 2016, where Ahmed Al-Khateeb, senior advisor to the Saudi Royal Court, and board chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), visited the Ethiopian Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
“This visit of the Emir seems a direct challenge to the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” said a geopolitical expert who has a background in studying the relationship between Ethiopia and Qatar.
At the end of last month, el-Sisi left a meeting of the 28th Arab League Summit that was being held in Jordan. The Egyptian president left the meeting with his delegates when the Emir took the podium to deliver a speech. Tensions between the two countries included claims that Qatar was involved in financing Islamic militants in Egypt. This led the countries into political divergence.
This visit of the Emir shows the country’s move to build its diplomatic relations with East African countries. Qatar is the only member of Gulf states that has an Embassy in all countries of the Horn of Africa, while the rest of the Gulf States have embassies in only a few of the countries.
“Beyond building Qatar’s political good will, it would be valuable if the visit brought investment to Ethiopia,” said the geopolitical expert.
During his two days visit, the Emir of Qatar is expected to attend bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) on ways to strengthen ties between the two countries focusing on economic, political, trade and investment, according to the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Addis Abeba.
During the official visit, the two countries will likely sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), including visa exemption agreement for diplomats, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In strengthening its diplomatic relations in the East Africa region, in 2008 Qatar involved in the border issue between Djibouti and Eritrea, which was finalised without agreement.
“It was a diplomatic humiliation to Qatar, which had presumed that it is the only state which can convince the government of Eritrea. The consequence was that the relationship between the two countries became somewhat frosty,” said the expert.
At that time, Ethiopia accused Qatar of defending Eritrea and of being too close to its President, Issayas Afewerqi. The quarrel occurred when both countries still did not have an embassy in each other’s country, according to a publication by Nenjamin Auge entitled “Diplomatic Relations between Qatar and Sub-Saharan Africa: An Evolving Affair” published in August last year.
Qatar’s support for Eritrea in its mediation with Djibouti in 2008 was the result of special relationships with both countries, reads the publication.
This resulted in lengthy diplomatic efforts and a need to talk more directly. This difficult period, which only lasted a few years, in the end, prompted the opening of a mission in 2013 with the arrival of Ambassador Mesganu Arga(a former Consul General to the United Arab Emirates) in Doha and the appointment of Abdulaziz Sultan Jassim Al-Rumaihi to Addis Abeba, according to same publication.
Currently, it is estimated that the number of Ethiopians working in Qatar is 25,000. This would make it one of the largest sub- Saharan African communities in Qatar, while Qatar has about 8,000 Eritreans living there.
In December last year, a Qatari delegation led by the foreign ministry of the state of Qatar, Mohamed Abdulrahman Jassim Al-Thani, paid an official visit to Ethiopia. During the visit, the two countries signed 11 agreements and MoUs, including financing of public and private investment in the energy sector.
Between 2011 and 2015 the trade balance between the two countries was 135.3 million dollars favouring Qatar, according to a data from the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association. The two countries trade includes livestock, meat and meat products.
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