Al-Jazeera shuts down its Egypt channel

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Al-Jazeera shuts down its Egypt channel
FILE- In this Monday, March 31, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, center left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, center, and correspondent Peter Greste, second right, appear in court along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt. Judge Mohammed Nagui Shehata sentenced the three journalists to seven years in prison. They had been accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the authorities have declared a terrorist organization. The case has caused an outcry, with rights groups saying the prosecution of the journalists was politicized and undermines freedom of expression in Egypt. (AP Photo/Heba Elkholy, El Shorouk, File) EGYPT OUT
FILE - In this Thursday, May 15, 2014 file photo, from left, Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appear in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo. Egyptian Judge Mohamed Nagui Shehata has sentenced the three journalists to seven years in prison Monday, June 23, 2014 in their trial on terrorism-related charges. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
FILE - In this May 3, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera's award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste appears in a defendants' cage in the Police Academy courthouse along with several other defendants during a trial on terror charges in Cairo, Egypt. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday, June 23 that he told Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that the jailed Australian journalist is innocent of charges that he supported the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
Al-Jazeera Arabic service journalist Abdullah Elshamy, center, who had been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges, kisses his mothers forehead after his release from detention in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Elshamy was swept up with hundreds of protesters on Aug. 14, 2013 while covering the violent dispersal of a sprawling sit-in by ousted President Mohammed Morsi supporters, which saw hundreds killed and thousands wounded. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Al-Jazeera Arabic service journalist Abdullah Elshamy, center, who had been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges, speaks to the media after his release from detention in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Elshamy was swept up with hundreds of protesters on Aug. 14, 2013 while covering the violent dispersal of a sprawling sit-in by ousted President Mohammed Morsi supporters, which saw hundreds killed and thousands wounded. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
FILE - In this Thursday, May 15, 2014 file photo, from left, Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appear in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo. Egypt’s state news agency says the trial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists and 17 others has adjourned until next week when the judge will deliver the verdict, five months after the trial opened. Fahmy, Greste and Baher have been in detention since December 29. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam, File)
Al-Jazeera's acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, center, and Australian correspondent Peter Greste, center right, appear in a defendant cage along with other defendants during a trial on terrorism charges in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 22, 2014. A defense lawyer for one of three Al-Jazeera journalists on trial in Egypt on terrorism charges has told the judge that the proceedings against his client "make no sense." (AP Photo/Ahmed Gamil)
Al-Jazeera's Egyptian journalist Abdullah Elshamy, center, appears in a defendants' cage along with several other defendants in a courthouse during a trial on terror charges in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Looking thin and weak, an Al-Jazeera journalist held without charges in Egypt vowed Thursday to continue his more than 100-day hunger strike despite being moved to solitary confinement. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Farag Fathi, lawyer for Al-Jazeera's Australian correspondent Peter Greste prepares to leave the court as he decided to quit the case during the trial in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Fathi and two other lawyers representing Al-Jazeera English journalists on trial in Egypt abruptly have quit the case, accusing the Doha-based network of using the arrest of their staff to tarnish Egypt’s image. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, from left, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appear in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Three lawyers representing Al-Jazeera English journalists on trial in Egypt abruptly have quit the case, accusing the Doha-based network of using the arrest of their staff to tarnish Egypt’s image. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Australian correspondent of Al-Jazeera Peter Greste appears in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Three lawyers representing Al-Jazeera English journalists on trial in Egypt abruptly have quit the case, accusing the Doha-based network of using the arrest of their staff to tarnish Egypt’s image. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Australian correspondent of Al-Jazeera Peter Greste appears in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Three lawyers representing Al-Jazeera English journalists on trial in Egypt abruptly have quit the case, accusing the Doha-based network of using the arrest of their staff to tarnish Egypt’s image. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Mohammed Fahmy, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, left, and Australian correspondent Peter Greste appear in a defendant's cage along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges at a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Canadian-Egyptian acting Al-Jazeera bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy talks to the judge in a courthouse near Tora prison along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Fahmy made a rare appeal to the judge from outside of the defendants' cage, at the end of which the judge wished him a "happy" World Press Freedom Day. In his brief plea Saturday, Fahmy stood directly before the judge's bench. Fahmy said journalists have to speak to all sides to do their jobs including both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, among others. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
Al-Jazeera's award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste, center, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed appear in a defendants' cage in a courthouse near Tora prison along with other defendants during their trial on terror charges in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, May 3, 2014. Greste and Mohamed, along with Al-Jazeera employee Mohammed Fahmy, face charges of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage Egyptian national security. Al-Jazeera and the journalists have denied the charges. (AP Photo/Hamada Elrasam)
FILE - In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, left, producer Baher Mohamed, second left, and correspondent Peter Greste, center, stand inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during their trial on terror charges, along with several other defendants, in Cairo Egypt. Pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera said Monday, April 28, that it has filed a claim against Egypt demanding $150 million in compensation to cover what it says are damages to its investments in the country since July. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid, File)
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CAIRO (AP) - The Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news network on Monday shut down its Egypt channel, quieting a major source of tension between the two countries at a time when regional efforts are underway to reconcile between the two countries over the Gulf nation's support for Islamists.

Qatar has been the main supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and was a powerful backer of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's Islamist president who was ousted last year by the military. Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera in general - and its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in particular - of doing Doha's bidding by serving as Islamists' mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks. The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests.

The most dramatic manifestation of the tensions has been the arrest, trial and prison sentences for three journalists from Al-Jazeera's English channel on terrorism-related charges for allegedly helping the Brotherhood.

Al-Jazeera said Monday it will incorporate Mubasher Misr into a new region-wide station. It said the Egyptian station will only resume its work when it can get proper licenses in Egypt "in coordination with Egyptian authorities."

The decision Monday came only two days after a Qatari envoy met with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the first such meeting since he was elected in June. El-Sissi's office said Egypt hoped the meeting, which was attended by a Saudi royal envoy, was the beginning of a "new era" that puts the past disagreements between the two countries behind.

Last month, Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, reached a reconciliation agreement with Qatar aimed at easing regional tensions linked to Doha's support for Islamist groups throughout the region.

Tensions with Egypt were the most public manifestation of the disagreements with Doha.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood, arresting thousands of its members, and putting them on trial, including Morsi. Many senior figures in the Brotherhood, which Egypt declared a terrorist organization, found refuge in Qatar, though some have since left.

The crackdown extended to Al-Jazeera. A local court declared Mubasher Misr a threat to national security and ordered it shut down soon after Morsi's ouster. The channel, whose name means "Egypt Live" in Arabic, has broadcast ever since from studios in the Qatari capital.

In December last year, Egyptian authorities arrested and swiftly tried the three Al-Jazeera English journalists, accusing them of providing a platform for the Brotherhood. Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohammed Fahmy, and Egyptian Mohammed Baher, were sentenced to at least seven years in prison on terrorism related charges. A half dozen other Al-Jazeera English journalists were sentenced in absentia in the trial, which was described as a sham by rights groups.

Fahmy said he and his colleagues were "victims of a real ongoing cold war between Egypt and Qatar," in the letter published earlier this month by Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper.

Egyptian TV on Monday hailed the shutting down of Al-Jazeera's local branch as the first sign of restoring good relations with Qatar.

"This is a translation of the Saudi initiative to restore warmth to Egyptian-Qatari relations," a broadcaster on the private Egyptian CBC station said.

An Al-Jazeera station employee denied it has succumbed to political pressure, saying the station makes its decisions based on its editorial policies. The employee said the decision to stop broadcasting was because of the "challenges" the channel faced in operating out of Egypt. The employee spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the matter.

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