Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt will return to Cairo next week, a Saudi official has said, signalling the end of a diplomatic row.
The ambassador was withdrawn almost a week ago in response to street protests in Cairo against the arrest of an Egyptian lawyer in the Gulf kingdom.
According to the Saudi state news agency SPA, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the reopening of the embassy and consulates in Alexandria and Suez from Sunday.
Abdullah gave the orders during a visit by a large Egyptian parliamentary delegation to Riyadh.
In a speech on Saudi state TV, King Abdullah said: “Our decision to recall the ambassador and shut down the embassy was to protect its staff from any ominous consequences,
“What happened recently and its ramifications on the relations between the two brotherly countries hurts every Egyptian and Saudi citizen.”
Saad al-Katatni, Egypt’s parliamentary speaker who was at the head of the Egyptian delegation, told Abdullah that the ambassador’s withdrawal was “hard for Egyptians”.
“We have to overcome these passing events and not let them unsettle the relations between the two countries,” he said.
“We hope that the [Saudi] ambassador comes back with us on the same plane.”
The Saudi move appeared a sharp message to Egypt’s rulers of the need to maintain good ties with the Gulf kingdom, that last week agreed to send $2.7b to support the fellow Arab state’s shaky finances.
The withdrawal of the embassy came after hundreds of Egyptians protested outside the embassy on Tuesday demanding the release of an Egyptian human rights activist held by Saudi authorities who claim he possessed banned drugs.
The protesters chanted slogans against the Saudi rulers as they called for the “immediate” release of Ahmed Mohammed al-Gizawi, who was arrested on arrival at Jeddah airport on April 17.
However, there has been no word yet on the fate of Gizawi who is thought to be still in custody in Saudi Arabia.
Strong ties between Riyadh and Cairo had already been strained by the upheaval in Egypt that overthrew its president, Hosni Mubarak, who was close to the Saudi leadership.