Saudi King Salman on Monday wrapped up a landmark five-day visit to Egypt marked by lavish praise and multibillion-dollar investment deals, in a clear sign of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime.
The 80-year-old monarch’s visit came as Riyadh aims to shore up ties with Cairo.
The visit also highlights Saudi Arabia’s firm support for Egypt’s fight against the militant Islamic State group.
“The other mission that we should work on together is the fight against extremism and the fight against terrorism,” King Salman said on Sunday in an address to the Egyptian parliament.
Yesterday, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cairo University.
Over the past five days, King Salman and Sisi signed a slew of multibillion-dollar investment deals that included a plan to build a bridge over the Red Sea connecting Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Egypt also agreed to demarcate its maritime borders with Saudi Arabia by officially placing two islands in the Straits of Tiran in Saudi territory.
The agreement provoked an immediate backlash in Egypt, with thousands of Twitter users accusing Sisi of selling the islands. The islands had historically been Saudi and were “leased” to Egypt in 1950.
Analysts said Salman’s visit puts to rest months of reports in Saudi and Egyptian media of strained ties between the two countries over Cairo’s unwillingness to participate fully in Saudi-led operations against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.
Egypt had announced it would back Saudi Arabia with ground forces if needed, but appears to have balked at sending troops for fear of becoming mired in the conflict.
“The two countries realise that common interests outweigh their practical differences,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Following Salman’s visit, Egypt would now be expected to offer more vocal support for Saudi Arabia when it comes to Iran and Yemen, he said.
“The Egyptians are basically going to convince the Saudis that they are in the same trench when it comes to the Saudis’ existential fight with Iran, and Saudi Arabia too seems to be very committed to Egyptian national security and the Sisi administration,” said Gerges.
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