CAIRO – 4 March 2018: Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, known as MBS, has just arrived in Cairo Sunday in his first official trip since being designated as a Crown Prince to the Saudi Kingdom on June 21, 2017, succeeding Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
Ambassador Bassam Radi, the official spokesperson of the Egyptian Presidency, revealed to Egypt Today that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and MBS are expected to engage into intensive talks tackling the recent developments in the region such as the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen.
“Bilateral economic relations and combating terrorism will top the agenda of both leaders,” Radi told Egypt Today on Sunday.
Bin Salman’s three-day visit to Egypt will be followed by a European tour to London where he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May on March 7, prior to his visit to the United States on March 19 to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The arrangement of the first three trips by the Saudi Crown Prince reflects the importance of Egypt in the Saudi foreign diplomacy in the next phase. Bin Salman is scheduled to meet with Sisi to discuss issues of mutual interest, the latest developments in the Arab region and the enhancement of bilateral relations in different fields.
“Egypt appreciates the historic visit by the Crown Prince as the first official foreign visit since he was designated as a Crown Prince in June,” Radi stressed.
On Friday, the Egyptian Presidency issued a statement welcoming the visit and describing bin Salman as a “dear guest in his second home, Egypt, for three days.”
On Thursday, Cairo International Airport received a number of Saudi officials preparing for the visit of bin Salman on Sunday. The delegation preparing for bin Salman’s visit to Egypt was the second Saudi delegation to arrive in Cairo. It was received by a number of employees at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.
Saudi's now appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) meets with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (R) in April 2015 (Photo: AFP)
Three-Day agenda of MBS
President Sisi will invite Crown Prince MBS to dinner at the Egyptian Presidential Palace on Sunday evening, as both leaders will hold talks about recent developments in the region and the world.
On Monday, MBS will meet with Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyib and will pay a visit to the Egyptian Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral at Abbasiya district in Cairo where he will meet with Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which was built in the era of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1965.
MBS will attend an artistic performance at the Cairo Opera House at Zamalek neighborhood, western Cairo, on Monday.
According to the set agenda of the Crown Prince, MBS will hold talks with Egyptian officials, statesman, and businessmen.
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabian Kingdom Mohamed bin Salman (L) and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (R) in Cairo in 2016- Press Photo
The Arab League Summit in Riyadh late March
On March 23, the 29th Arab League Summit in Riyadh is expected to take place amid speculations of a postponement of the summit because of the Arab boycott of Qatar.
On June 5, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut their diplomatic ties with the Gulf state of Qatar over its crystal-clear support to terrorist groups, extremists and Iran.
For its part, Doha denied the charges. Doha insists on backing terrorism and interfering in the Arab quartet’s domestic affairs, and this is deemed a key obstacle impeding a resolution to the current dilemma between the Arab quartet and Qatar, according to Arab columnist Youssef Ayoub.
Moreover, the participation of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Riyadh’s summit deems a real impasse, as the Saudi rulers would not accept the presence of the Qatari emir in Saudi territory before an official acceptance and approval of the Arab quartet’s fourteen principles.
As a member state of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia has to send an official invitation to Qatar to attend the Arab Summit in Riyadh, against the kingdom’s political will. Ayoub revealed that Qatar will never hesitate to attend the summit, saying, “Saudi Arabia is in a deep mess, as it can never prevent Qatari participation in the Arab Summit.”
Political observers believe that freezing Qatar’s membership in the Arab League may be a solution to prevent a Saudi political and diplomatic violation that may be committed if the Saudi side seeks to prevent Qatar’s participation in the upcoming summit in Riyadh.
Sisi-MBS former talks
In December, Sisi received a phone call from Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman, where they discussed bilateral ties and mutual cooperation between both states.
Sisi and bin Salman met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, in September 2016, following a historic visit to Cairo by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz in April. Both leaders discussed stepping up cooperation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia across all fields, and continued consultation and coordination on various regional and international issues to enhance joint Arab action.
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabian Kingdom Mohamed bin Salman (L) and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (R) in Cairo in 2015- Press Photo
North Sinai Development
The relations between Cairo and Riyadh were strengthened after King Salman bin Abdulaziz visited Egypt in April 2016. He witnessed the signing of a number of cooperation agreements, particularly a $1.5 billion deal to develop Sinai.
In a move to develop and continue the construction of North Sinai, the Egyptian military launched a full-scale security campaign against militants, who have hotbeds in Sinai, on February 9.
The campaign is being conducted following the Al-Rawdah terrorist attack on November 24, 2017, which claimed the lives of at least 311 people – roughly 22 percent of male residents of Al-Rawdah village in Sinai – both military and police forces have intensified their security operations against terrorist hotbeds.
In October 2017, Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated that NEOM (a planned transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia close to the border region of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt) will have many ports, “some of them in Saudi Arabia and some of them in Egypt.”
The Kingdom held talks with some of the world’s biggest companies to develop technologies that will power life in the $500 billion project, MBS in an interview with Bloomberg News.
The project is the safest, most efficient and most future-oriented of all projects as it will free Saudi Arabia from its dependence on oil exports and will be independent of Saudi Arabian regulation; adopting a "separate regulatory framework."
It is the first private zone to span Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to be funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, as well as local and international investors.
NEOM overlooks the Red Sea, one of the world’s most prominent economic arteries, through which nearly one tenth of the world’s trade flows; facilitating NEOM's rapid emergence as a global hub that has potential to bring together the best of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Saudi investments in Egypt
Saudi investors seemed to be returning to the Egyptian market. Saudi business tycoons Abdulrahman Sharbatly and Sheikh Fahd El-Shobokshi announced, late 2017, their intention to invest $2.15 billion in the Egyptian market.
Sharbatly’s son, Hassan Sharbatly disclosed intention to invest $2.15 billion in Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada projects in addition to a cement project.
Also, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal pledged new investments in the hotel sector in September, 2017. The announced cooperation deal with Talaat Mostafa Group (TMG) carries a total investment volume that exceeds $800 million which will be injected into the hotel sector.
Egypt is working to facilitate investments procedures especially for Saudi investments, in light of the plan of the Egyptian-Saudi Business Council to raise their investments in Egypt to $51 billion in both government and private sector.