Saudi king arrives in Egypt; red carpet rolled out to plane

AP News
Posted: Apr 07, 2016 9:24 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Saudi Arabia's King Salman arrived on his first official visit to Egypt on Thursday, with Cairo saying it is hoping to boost ties with its most important Arab ally and garner trade deals to help bolster its shaky economy.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi greeted Salman with a red carpet welcome and a kiss as the monarch descended from his jumbo jet on an escalator, flanked by lancers and dozens of Saudi and Egyptian officials. Two children in Saudi dress were held up to the king, who later headed to the presidential palace for a troop review kicked off with howitzer fire.

El-Sissi's office earlier said Egypt accords great importance to Salman's landmark visit to the Arab world's most populous nation, saying the two countries must increase cooperation in order to strengthen security in the turbulent Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is one of the top foreign investors in Egypt, with more than $8 billion pledged late last year in sectors such as tourism, agriculture and information technology. The oil-rich kingdom has also promised to help the country meet its energy needs.

Riyadh has helped bankroll el-Sissi's government since the Egyptian leader — then army chief — ousted a divisive Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, giving billions of dollars in aid, grants and cash deposits to help buoy the country's economy. Egypt has faced years of political upheaval since a 2011 pro-democracy uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak sent foreign reserves tumbling and slowed economic growth.

The two Arab nations, however, are at odds in their approach to the region's major crises, primarily the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

But public admonishments are rare and the two seem never to tire from extolling what they call their historic relations, strategic partnership and common goals.

Salman and el-Sissi are expected to sign a deal to provide Egypt with $20 billion worth of oil products over five years, and another for Saudi investment of $1.5 billion in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, where an Islamic State affiliate has set up a foothold.

More than 20 other agreements and memoranda of understanding will also be signed, covering a wide range of fields, including education, fighting graft, shipping and broadcast, according to Egypt's Ministry of International Cooperation.

During Salman's five-day visit, the two countries will also discuss further developing military cooperation and other issues.