CAIRO – Saudi Arabia's ambassador is returning to Cairo a week after he was recalled following a wave of protests against the detention of an Egyptian lawyer, the embassy said Saturday.
The ambassador's recall and the closure of the kingdom's missions in Egypt was the worst diplomatic row between the two countries in decades.
The unexpected Saudi diplomatic break came following days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi. Relatives and human rights groups say he was detained for allegedly insulting the kingdom's monarch.
Saudi authorities denied that and said he was arrested for trying to smuggle anti-anxiety drugs into the conservative oil-rich kingdom.
The embassy said Ambassador Ahmed Kattan will be in Egypt later Saturday, a day after the kingdom's monarch met with an Egyptian delegation that traveled to Riyadh to heal the rift.
"We will not allow this passing crisis to go on for long," King Abdullah said Friday according to Saudi official media. "The repercussions of the recent events on the relations between the two countries pained every honorable Saudi and Egyptian."
Egypt's ruling military generals have criticized demonstrators for endangering relations between the two countries. Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and shut its diplomatic missions after what it said were "unjustified" protests that violated the missions and threatened staff.
The lawyer's case had revived long-standing resentment over the treatment of Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, which is a destination for more than a million Egyptians searching for better jobs. Occasional bouts of tension over mistreatment of Egyptians in the kingdom have plagued the relations, but they have never reached such an extent.
Saudi officials have increasingly viewed Egypt's post-revolution trajectory -- particularly the political gains by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood -- as worrisome trends that could encourage greater opposition in the Gulf.
The Egyptian delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The delegation of over 100 Egyptian personalities was led by the speaker of the Islamist-dominated parliament Saad el-Katatni, also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
El-Gezawi was still in custody in Saudi Arabia. El-Katatni told a Saudi newspaper, Okaz, that the parliament won't interfere in the lawyer's case and that they have confidence in the Saudi judiciary.