King Salman’s visit to Egypt
For years we have affirmed the strength of relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt and that Riyadh views ties between the two countries are not largely affected by domestic circumstances. Even during the Muslim Brotherhood’s one-year rule of Egypt, Saudi Arabia tried to be a good friend and neighbour and was shocked when Egypt’s Islamist rulers sought to surrender the country to Iran’s mullahs.
Still, Saudi Arabia was patient and eventually the Egyptian people had enough and a second revolution took place. Now Egypt has a government that is seeking to fix the country’s democratic path and return Saudi-Egyptian relations to their normal track.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s visit to Cairo came at a time when the Saudi-Egyptian Coordination Council is having its sixth meeting in which a number of agreements are set to be signed. These deals would increase Saudi investment in Egypt to serve the economic interests of both sides. They include an agreement — worth an estimated $20 billion — that will result in Egypt’s energy needs being covered for the next five years.
This is a major agreement and represents important Saudi economic support for Egypt.
Saudi Arabia will also be providing the funds for the construction of King Salman University in Sinai, at a cost of about $1.5 billion.
King Salman’s visit is also at a crucial time given deteriorating political, security and economic situations across the Middle East following the “Arab spring”. Indeed, the visit in itself is a blow to those who have tried to divide Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the past few years, not least the Muslim Brotherhood and certain regional states whose governments oppose Cairo.
King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had an agenda that included a range of important topics affecting the Arab and Islamic world. Key among the issues is the Syrian crisis where there appears to be lack of agreement on some points and where it is hoped that Cairo and Riyadh can reach a common vision.
The same applies to the Yemeni, Libyan and Lebanese files, as well as the broader fight against terrorism. Some are suggesting greater security coordination between Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s respective Interior and Defence ministries could emerge from the meeting. King Salman’s visit was to include discussions on the issue of joint Arab forces and the establishment of an independent committee responsible for dealing with the refugee crisis.
There is also no doubt that the meeting will include discussions of Egyptian-Qatari relations after Qatar hinted a desire to improve them. The same goes for Egyptian- Turkey relations after Ankara sought to calm tensions with Cairo over the past months. Saudi Arabia is the only country able to lead the reform of relations among these three parties. We can only hope that this is something that can be achieved because Arab and Islamic countries need to overcome their differences for the greater good.
In a recent statement, Sisi said Saudi Arabia and Egypt represent the two flanks of Arab security. The history of relations between these two countries only serves to confirm this. As for what we are seeing today, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are both looking to work together to create new policies affecting the Middle East following the disasters of the “Arab spring”.
This development is a testimony to the fraternity between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, something that the Muslim Brotherhood and those trying to hurt this relationship simply do not understand. Relations that bind Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not confined to the ties between their leaders; this is a relationship between two fraternal people and historic strategic allies.