CAIRO - Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz arrived in Egypt Thursday on a five-day visit to Egypt, bringing deals worth about 21.5 billion U.S. dollars.
Among others, the two Arab countries agreed to build a land bridge to connect the two countries separated by the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.
This is King Salman’s first official state visit to the region’s most populous country since ascending to the Saudi throne in January 2015.
Salman was greeted upon arrival by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who later on Friday granted the Saudi king the Collar of the Nile, Egypt’s highest state honor.
Welcoming the historic visit by the 80-year-old King, Al-Sisi lauded the genuine fraternity between the two sides, emphasizing he would never forget Saudi’s support to the Egyptians over the years.
Egypt current government led by al-Sisi has been struggling to find a solution to economic woes and a militant insurgency.
The Egyptian pound continued to drop recently despite the central bank’s efforts to bridge the huge demand and supply gap, a blow to an economy that relies heavily on imports.
What’s worse, Egypt has been facing a shortage in foreign currency inflows after tourists and foreign investors were scared away after the 2011 uprising.
Against that backdrop, the ongoing visit of the Saudi king to Cairo is a boost to al-Sisi and his government, especially after some said a crucial disagreement between Riyadh and Cairo has emerged on the positions on the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
"There is no deep disagreement between Riyadh and Cairo, whether on the issues of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon or Libya, but the tactics and means to achieve joint purposes might be different," said Omar al-Hassan, head of the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies.
He highlighted the ongoing bilateral programs, common strategies and constant coordination, "so there is no major or deep disagreement at all between the two countries."
"King Salman’s visit to Egypt is meant to bolster ties and strategic partnership between the two countries in a manner that helps face regional threats and crises," said the Egyptian president.
In fact, Saudi has provided Egypt with billions of U.S. dollars to help revive the country’s economy after al-Sisi seized power in 2013, although the deals signed on Friday highlighted the change of Saudi’s strategy to support Egypt.
In other words, Saudi intended to help its ally through investments rather than direct aid, or "free money", as the oil-rich Gulf country itself is going through hardships due to low oil price and seeking to diversify sources of revenue.
Source: Xinhua, April 9