Al Sissi welcomes Mohammad to Egypt

Crown prince’s plane was escorted by Egyptian fighter jets when it entered Egypt’s airspace

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman landed in the Egyptian capital on Sunday at the start of his first foreign tour as heir to the throne.

A beaming Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi greeted the crown prince at Cairo airport after he descended the red-carpeted steps of his plane.

The head of Prince Mohammad’s office, Bader Al Asaker, tweeted that the prince’s plane was escorted by Egyptian fighter jets when it entered Egypt’s airspace.

Prince Mohammad will hold meetings with Al Sissi, a key regional ally, and other officials in Egypt before flying off to Britain on Wednesday and then later this month the United States.

Their talks are expected to focus on enhancing ties between the two Arab allies in different fields. Saudi Arabia is Egypt’s top Arab investor with around $27 billion, according to Egyptian figures. It has showered Cairo with aid to prop up the country’s economy.

Al Sissi and Prince Mohammad will also discuss the conflict in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is leading a military campaign against Iran-allied militia, Egyptian media reported. Their talks will also tackle Syria’s seven-year-old strife and Iran’s meddling in Arab region, the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram said.

Saudi Arabia views Egypt as a cornerstone of regional stability. Prince Mohammad’s visit comes ahead of Egypt’s presidential polls in late March, with Al Sissi expected to win a second four-year term.

The visit “will be interpreted as proof of Saudi support for Al Sissi to remain as the president of Egypt”, Mustafa Kamel Al Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, told AFP.

Cairo and Riyadh have maintained close ties. Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have boycotted Qatar for its support for extremists organisations and close ties with Iran since June 2017. Qatar is a staunch backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated as a terrorist organisation.

The crown prince’s tour also aims to court investors and comes after a tumultuous period that has seen a military shake-up and a anti-graft purge in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi government source said Prince Mohammad’s choice of Egypt for his maiden overseas trip as crown prince “reaffirmed Saudi-Egyptian cooperation at the highest level”.

Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA described the visit as a “natural extension of human, historical, and political” relations, adding that the trip aimed to boost bilateral ties between the two countries as well as “brotherly and friendly relations,” as well as coordinate positions and stances on regional and international issues.

Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to Cairo comes ahead of a scheduled trip to Britain on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and the United States from March 19-22.


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