Monday,20 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)
Monday,20 May, 2019
Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Saudi crown prince in Cairo

Egyptian-Saudi relations received a major boost this week, writes Reem Leila


#Bin Salman received by Al-Sisi # Bin Salman with Pope Tawadros II at the St Mark Cathedral # Al-Sisi and Bin Salman attended a performance at the Cairo Opera House, Monday
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was in Cairo this week on the first leg of his first foreign tour since being designated heir to the throne.

During his meetings with Bin Salman President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi underscored Egypt’s commitment to promoting bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia and highlighted the outstanding strategic relations that exist between Egypt and the kingdom.

The visit saw the signing of several major investment projects, including one in which Egypt partners Saudi Arabia in the kingdom’s NEOM project, a $500 billion futuristic city.

The NEOM project will cover 10,230 square miles, linking Saudi Arabia with Jordan and Egypt. Egypt has allocated 1,000 square kilometres of land in South Sinai to the new city which will run on 100 per cent renewable energy. The project is part of a wider strategy which Saudi Arabia hopes will consolidate the diversification of its economy.

According to presidential spokesperson Bassem Radi, the investment agreements — which include setting up an Egyptian-Saudi investment fund of $16 billion — will advance development projects across Egypt.

“The projects will be selected on the basis of an investment map prepared by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation in coordination with other ministries and government bodies,” said Radi.

An environment protection deal which aims to reduce pollution was signed between Environment Minister Khaled Fahmi and his Saudi counterpart Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdel-Mohsen Al-Fadhli and an executive programme of joint cooperation was agreed to promote investment between the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. The latter was signed by Minister of Investment Sahar Nasr and Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed bin Abdullah Al-Kassabi.

Cairo and Riyadh also discussed the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and ways to stop Iran from interfering in the domestic affairs of Arab countries. On Palestine Bin Salman dismissed any suggestion of an exchange of land with Israel as a way to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Our aim is to unify political Palestinian leadership so when we are at the negotiation table there will be a unified position,” Bin Salman said during a meeting with media representatives on Monday.

The so-called “deal of the century” — a US suggestion — supposedly excludes Jerusalem from any future Palestinian state, which is unacceptable to Palestinians.

Discussions between Al-Sisi and Bin Salman also touched on ways to consolidate bilateral relations by establishing more joint projects which will be lent impetus by investment opportunities, particularly in the field of tourism in the Red Sea area.

The talks addressed pressing regional issues, generating a mutual understanding of the positions adopted by Cairo and Riyadh on a host of regional dossiers. The two sides agreed to continue to exert joint efforts to reach political settlements to ongoing crises across the region in a manner that ends humanitarian suffering and preserves the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries involved.

On the issue of Qatar, the Saudi prince said “Qatar is only a stage and a treasury used by the Muslim Brotherhood”. Bin Salman rejected any foreign intervention, especially by the US, to resolve the crisis between the four Arab allies and Qatar, maintaining that it should be settled among the Arab states.

In June 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran, which Doha has denied.

Bin Salman said Qatar should be isolated economically and diplomatically just like the way the US dealt with Cuba.

An agreement was made to work together to counter regional interventions and to widen inter-Arab divisions and rifts and unite in the face of the threats and challenges facing the Arab region, terrorism and the states sponsoring it foremost among them. “Security of the Gulf countries is integral to Egypt’s national security and any threat against them will be effectively countered,” said Al-Sisi.

He added that the “evil powers” who seek to target Egypt are the same powers that seek to target the whole region.

During the three-day visit, which began on 4 March, Bin Salman met Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. It is the first time a Saudi crown prince has visited the headquarters of the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Bin Salman offered his condolences to the pope for Copts who lost their lives in terrorist attacks last year, calling them “martyrs”.

On the second day of the visit Bin Salman attended a performance at Cairo Opera House.

President Al-Sisi accompanied the crown prince on a visit to Ismailia governorate where they reviewed a number of projects, including the new Suez Canal.

On the last day of the visit Bin Salman and Al-Sisi inaugurated restoration works at Al-Azhar funded by late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz Al-Saud. The grand imam of Al-Azhar attended the inauguration.

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